WaPo: Trump admin looking to privatize International Space Station

Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan

Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan

The Trump administration is considering turning the International Space Station over to the private sector and ending its federal funding, according to an internal NASA document obtained by the Washington Post.

Frank Slazer, the vice president of space systems for the Aerospace Industries Association, said the plan also could prove sticky with the station's worldwide partners.

Donald Trump wanting to end direct federal support for the International Space Station is one thing, but privatizing it is another thing entirely.

"In support of enabling a timely development and transition of commercial capabilities in LEO where NASA could be one of many customers in the mid-2020s, the Administration is proposing to end direct Federal support for the ISS in 2025 under the current NASA-directed operating model", the document states. The plan to privatize the station, meanwhile, will likely also be met with resistance, as the White House has already poured nearly $100 billion investments into it.

According to NASA figures, the ISS operational costs will amount to 3-4 billion dollars per year through 2024.

Last week, Senator Ted Cruz slammed the reports, claiming he hoped they would "prove as unfounded as Bigfoot" after the amount of money spent to operate the station. He said the decision was the result of "numbskulls" at the Office of Management and Budget. While there are a number of hurdles to this, it could essentially mean the ISS would go from a publicly funded research station to a privately owned condo or resort.

"I think all of us are open to reasonable proposals that are cost-effective and that are utilizing the investments we've made in a way that maximizes their effectiveness", he said.

"It will be very hard to turn ISS into a truly commercial outpost because of the global agreements that the United States is involved in". NASA will expand worldwide and commercial partnerships over the next seven years to ensure uninterrupted access to people and their presence in low-Earth orbit, "the document said".

Other space agencies like the European Space Agency, Japan's JAXA, and Russia's Roscosmos also contribute to the ISS, and while a lapse in funding from the United States could cripple the station regardless, selling off parts of it could create conflict with the numerous other space agencies involved.

"It's inherently always going to be an global construct that requires US government involvement and multinational cooperation", he explained.

The White House is reportedly in the process of working on a transition plan and aims to stop funding the space station from 2024.

Supporters fear the rumours and leaks risk deterring other nations from continuing their support for a collaborative effort that launched in 1998 and has welcomed astronauts, cosmonauts and space tourists from 17 countries.

The proposal doesn't say what companies would take over or what private enterprise might want to do with the station.

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