NASA’s audit body, the Office of Audits, produced a report detailing the agency’s commitment to replace the International Space Station (ISS) with one or more commercial space stations once the laboratory is in orbit. took of. While still scheduled for 2024, all indications are that the operational life of the ISS will be extended until 2030, when the agency assumes it will be able to transfer human occupation from a science facility in orbit at a private company.
This audit essentially details the current costs of maintaining and operating the ISS, and also explains why it believes there will always be a critical need for a research facility that can provide a test bed for human exposure. extended to space, as well as for the development and demonstration of key technologies to help people explore deep space, including establishing a more permanent presence on the moon and exploring Mars.
The conclusion is that NASA is hoping to see a commercial station up and running by 2028 to give a two-year overlap period before the planned withdrawal and deorbit of the ISS. This schedule presents obvious risks, however, in part due to “limited market demand, inadequate funding, unreliable cost estimates and ever-changing requirements”.
The good news is that recently, many companies seem interested in continuing to develop commercial orbital destinations. A partnership between Nanoracks, its parent company Voyager Space, and Lockheed Martin aims to produce one by 2027. Blue Origin hopes to launch its Orbital Reef station with Sierra Space and Boeing by 2030 at the latest, while Axiom progresses already in its plan to send modules that will join the ISS before splitting up and self-orbiting as its own station by 2028.
You can read the full report from the NASA Office of Audits below: