Trump wants to defund space station, make it a private venture

An internal NASA document obtained by CBS News suggests the White House plans to stop funding the ISS after 2024, turning it over to private industry.

Michelle Meyers
Michelle Meyers wrote and edited CNET News stories from 2005 to 2020 and is now a contributor to CNET.
Michelle Meyers
2 min read

These pizza-eating astronauts would have a new private-sector boss under a plan floated by the Trump administration. 


The Trump administration is apparently ready to stop funding the International Space Station after 2024, instead handing it over to the private space industry to run.

The plan would end direct federal support for the orbiting laboratory, but would include $150 million in fiscal 2019 funding for a transition plan to make it a more commercially focused outpost, according to an internal NASA review obtained by CNET sister site CBS News.

"The decision to end direct federal support for the ISS in 2025 does not imply that the platform itself will be deorbited at that time -- it is possible that industry could continue to operate certain elements or capabilities of the ISS as part of a future commercial platform," according to a draft summary of NASA's ISS Transition Report.

 "NASA will expand international and commercial partnerships over the next seven years in order to ensure continued human access to and presence in low Earth orbit," the summary read.

The space station is currently authorized through 2024, and some at NASA reportedly believe its life could be extended for another four years. But no official decisions have been made by the US and its international partners, which include Russia, the European Space Agency, Canada and Japan.

Some of the station's modules, however, would be more than 30 years old by 2025, and would require extensive review to make sure they would remain structurally sound, said CBS News' William Harwood.

The US has spent nearly $100 billion to build and operate the space station, which was launched in November 1998.

The plan floated by the Trump administration marks just the latest example of NASA turning over access to low Earth orbit to the private sector, according to The Washington Post. NASA outsourced cargo supply flights to the station to SpaceX and Orbital ATK under President George W. Bush. And under President Barack Obama, it hired Boeing and SpaceX to fly astronauts there.

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