NASA is in discussion with several private companies for the day-to-day management of the International Space Station (ISS) in the coming years, said the US space agency administrator Jim Bridenstine.
“We are now at a stage where there are people outside (NASA) who can provide commercial management of the International Space Station,” Bridenstine told The Washington Post, who took the helm at NASA in April.
“I had discussions with many large companies that would be willing to get involved through a consortium,” he added, but without giving more details about the companies he spoke to. However, according to medi reports, NASA has already signed a contract with US manufacturer Boeing. US company Bigelow Aerospace could also be part of the future consortium. The latter is testing until 2020 a temporary module attached to the ISS: an inflatable cabin, the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM). Eventually, it would pave the way for a private commercial space station (Bigelow Next-Generation Commercial Space Station) under development.
The White House said earlier this year that it intends to stop by 2025 the direct funding of the orbital outpost built in close collaboration with the Russians, eleven European countries but also the Japanese and Canadians. Indeed, the United States invests between $ 3 billion and $ 4 billion annually in the ISS, which has cost about $ 100 billion to assemble and has been continuously populated since 2000.
Nonetheless, the difficulty of such a project lies in the legal organization governing the management of the ISS. If the United States does have the leading role in the Space Station, fourteen other states are involved, including eleven European nations: Germany, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Spain, France, Italy, Japan, Norway, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Russia, Sweden and Switzerland.