Senate panel extends life of International Space Station to 2030
Funding set to be cut by 2025 before reforms
WASHINGTON – A Senate panel approved key reforms Wednesday that will extend the ability for private companies to operate on the International Space Station until 2030.
The U.S. Senate Commerce Committee, which oversees U.S. space programs, approved the bipartisan Space Frontier Act, sponsored by Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Florida), which will streamline "regulations companies have to follow when it comes to launching, reentering or observing Earth from space," according to a joint statement by the committee.
This act will extend the life of U.S. operations on the International Space Station from 2025 through 2030. In its 2019 budget request, the Trump administration proposed ending direct government funding for the ISS by 2025 and moving to privatizing the management of the space station, valued at more than $100 billion.
Last year, Congress asked NASA for a report on how it could achieve an “orderly transition” from a government-run station to a model where NASA and commercial users share the costs of low-Earth orbit missions.
“It is unlikely that a private entity or entities would assume the station’s annual operating costs, currently projected at $1.2 billion in 2024,” a report to Congress by Paul Martin, NASA’s inspector general, said. “The scant commercial interest shown in the station over its nearly 20 years of operation gives us pause about the agency’s current plan.”
Under the new reforms, the Department of Transportation has a new deadline of February 2019 to set new regulations to "better handle new technologies like reusable launch vehicles and the rapid growth of launch activity in Florida and elsewhere in the U.S," according to the announcement.
"This bill aims to further grow U.S. commercial space ventures and the jobs they create,” said Nelson, the top Democrat on the Senate Commerce Committee. “Streamlining regulations for private companies and extending the life of the space station is good for the thriving space industry at the Cape.”
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