NASA is at risk of losing its foothold in orbit after the end of the International Space Station.
Important reason: Without a business base in space, the agency’s plans to go from the only provider of services in orbit to the customers of the companies doing business there are at stake.
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News promotion: This month, NASA made a final call to companies to submit ideas for space stations that could be built and operated where astronauts could visit and experiment.
These space stations must be up and running by the time the ISS ends before 2030.
NASA will award prizes to companies selected for certain milestones, but NASA does not intend to fully fund the development of these space stations. Request for proposal..
Background: After the completion of the Space Shuttle program, it took nine years for the SpaceX dragon to fly NASA astronauts to the space station. Meanwhile, NASA had to pay to fly people on the Russian Soyuz rocket.
According to NASA’s director of commercial space flight Phil McAllister, this type of gap is unacceptable at the end of the space station.
“We think [a gap] Not only will we thin out the capacity of both the crew and cargo that we helped develop, but we will also thin out all the research that we have achieved during our 20 years of continuous presence on the ISS, “Makalister told me. Told.
Stakes: If NASA is unable to continue sending astronauts to the space station, it could affect future space agency exploration plans.
NASA wants to send astronauts to the Moon in 2024, then add a lunar eclipse mission, and then send it to Mars. However, it is also beneficial for space agencies to place astronauts in low earth orbit to gain experience before going to distant destinations.
“By maintaining its presence in low earth orbit, we and our partners can have a powerful number of astronauts … and how the human body reacts in the long run. Can gain knowledge [to spaceflight], And that’s what we can only do in low earth orbit, “Mike Gold of Redwire Space told me.
The space agency also wants to maintain human presence in low earth orbit as China works to build its own space station and ultimately puts people on the moon.
Yes, but: It’s unclear whether Congress will fund NASA’s plans to support low-Earth orbit industrial development.
NASA demanded $ 150 million for low-Earth orbit commercialization in fiscal year 2021, but Congress only allocated $ 17 million.
Some have suggested that special medicines and high-tech products can be manufactured in zero gravity, but it is still unclear what the future demand for these non-governmental space stations will be.
Notable points: NASA has already signed a contract with Axiom Space to fly the module to the ISS in 2024. This is the first step in NASA’s plans to ultimately operate its own commercial space station.
“So NASA has to modify the International Space Station for us to get there, and we have to build our modules,” said Mike Suffredini, CEO of Axiom. Told me. “The other half of that question is whether NASA is ready.”
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