US wants to privatise International Space Station, says report

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The Trump administration plans to sell the iconic International Space Station into private hands according to a leaked NASA document.

The International Space Station or ISS is a low-orbit space station was developed jointly by the United States space agency NASA and its Russian counterpart.

It said a White House budget request to be released Monday US time would request US$150 million in 2019, with more in additional years "to enable the development and maturation of commercial entities and capabilities which will ensure that commercial successors to the ISS-potentially including elements of the ISS-are operational when they are needed".

The US plan, the paper said, involves privatising the ISS, a low-orbit space station piloted by the US space agency NASA and developed jointly with its Russian counterpart. He also argued that it would be "one of the dumbest things" to stop funding an asset with "serious usable life ahead".

However, the Washington Post also reported that the White House apparently doesn't have anyone specific in mind to take over the space station, which costs $US3 -4 billion a year to run and has already run the federal government almost $US100 billion in construction, maintenance, and operational costs.

NASA is now studying whether the life of the station could be extended to 2028, or beyond, and he said any decision should hinge on that report. The NASA document says that ending federal support of the ISS doesn't mean it will necessarily come down, as "it is possible that industry could continue to operate certain elements of capabilities of the ISS of a future commercial platform".

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

It's not clear what private company might take over the station - companies like SpaceX frequently make deliveries there, while Boeing operates the station for NASA.

Boeing now operates the station for NASA, which costs $3 to $4 billion annually.

The White House has said it "will request market analysis and business plans from the commercial sector and solicit plans from commercial industry".

The station has allowed worldwide crews - notably in collaboration with the Canadian, European and Japanese space agencies - to pursue scientific research in the environment of a low Earth orbit.

Former astronaut Mark Kelly recently wrote in the New York Times that while there has been a surge of commercial activity in low-Earth orbit in the past few years, it would "come to a screeching halt" if the ISS and its government-funded scientific missions which now make those ventures possible were halted.

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