NASA Plans to Have Ready to Go Commercial Stations by 2031 When ISS Deorbited, Chief States

CC BY 2.0 / NASA / Canadarm2 Over South Africa (NASA, International Space Station, 08/15/14)
Canadarm2 Over South Africa (NASA, International Space Station, 08/15/14) - Sputnik Africa, 1920, 01.05.2024
WASHINGTON (Sputnik) - NASA has extended its presence on the US side of the space station through 2030, while the Russia's Roscosmos Scientific and Technical Council has approved the decision to extend the operation of the Russian segment of the station through 2028.
NASA plans to have a ready-to-go commercial space stations by 2031 after the International Space Station (ISS) is deorbited, Administrator Bill Nelson said in a congressional testimony on Tuesday.

"We want to replace it with commercial stations so that all the science, the training, all the things that we do in low Earth orbit (LEO) can be done on a commercial station, which at the same time has a business model that they can make money on a commercial station bringing business off the face of the Earth up to LEO," Nelson said.

The NASA chief pointed out that the agency has already put significant funding into three commercial companies to do precisely that.
"That is the intent by 2031 when we would deorbit the Space Station, that there would be the commercial station ready to go," Nelson said.
Furthermore, Nelson said that the funding for a spacecraft to deorbit the ISS and bring its remains safely to Earth after 2030 should be included in an emergency supplemental bill.

"Why is it an emergency, and it should not be in the regular request for appropriations? Because we don't know what [Russian President] Vladimir Putin is going to do," Nelson said. "We don't know what the President of Russia is going to do, and we could be in an emergency situation if we have to get this structure that is as big as a football stadium down and down safely in 2031, and that's why I am making the request, and I am pleading to you all in the Appropriations Committee to put that in the emergency supplemental bill that will be coming up later."

At the same time, Nelson underscored that the ISS was built and operated together with the Russians.
"We have had no hiccup whatsoever with the Russian cosmonauts nor Moscow mission control and Houston mission control of which we have both Russians and Americans in both, we do an integrated crew — on the Soyuz there is an American astronaut, on the Dragon there is a Russian cosmonaut," he noted.
When asked about the cost of the deorbiting vehicle, Nelson said that for the fiscal year of 2024, it is $80 million, and for a total price over six years is $1.5 billion.
Earlier in April, Nelson said that NASA had requested additional emergency funding from the US Congress to start preparing a spacecraft to deorbit the International Space Station and bring its remains safely to Earth after 2030 if space cooperation with Russia breaks down before then.
Current plans anticipate that NASA and Russian state space corporation Roscosmos work closely together to safely deorbit the space station so that its debris does not threaten any populated areas on Earth, the chief said, adding that the ISS is 357 feet long — longer than an American football field.
However, given the current icy diplomatic relations between the United States and Russia, NASA planners cannot take for granted that their current and ongoing cooperation with Roscosmos will continue safely into the indefinite future, the NASA chief added.
Nevertheless, Russia could join the US-led Artemis program on space cooperation if it wanted to, NASA Deputy Administrator Pam Melroy said during the Meridian Space Diplomacy Forum in Washington on Tuesday.
"Absolutely," Melroy said when asked if Russia could join the Artemis Accords.
Moreover, Melroy during the panel discussion highlighted Russia's key role on the International Space Station, noting that the United States cannot operate it without Russia.
NASA established the Artemis Accords in 2020 together with seven other nations, but at present there are a total of 39 countries that have signed on to them. The accords establish a practical set of principles to guide space exploration cooperation among nations, including those participating in NASA’s Artemis campaign.
According to NASA, the Artemis Accords reinforce and implement key obligations in the 1967 Outer Space Treaty.