The development is a hopeful sign that despite the slowdown in Congress, a commercial replacement of the International Space Station (ISS) may occur. The United States has a chance to avoid a “space gap” when the International Space Station reaches the end of its operational life, such as that which occurred between the end of the Space Shuttle program and the first launch of a commercial Dragon mission by SpaceX’s commercial crew.
when Jim BridensteinJames (Jim) Frederick Bridenstein The Canadian NASA agreement explains how Artemis is an international launch on the moon NASA picks the next Artemis astronauts on the surface of the moon while SpaceX flies on the spacecraft first to break the sound barrier, Chuck Yeager dies at 97 more He became a director of NASA, and one of the questions he faced was what to do about maintaining his presence in low Earth orbit after the International Space Station. The idea that he and the experts at NASA are pushing is to encourage private companies to build their own space station. NASA will provide the needed support by pledging to become the primary tenant of such orbital facilities. However, commercial space stations will also have to find private clients.
The problem is, Congress has been remarkably stingy when it comes to setting aside real money for this approach. Fiscal Year 2020 Budget Request included $ 150 million For commercial space stations. Congress funded support for private orbital laboratories a total of $ 15 million. The FY2020 budget request repeated the $ 150 million request. Congress chose to be a little more generous: $ 17 million.
It is not that Congress is against maintaining a human presence in LEO. In fact, as reported by Space.com, the Senate version of the NASA authorization bill Stretches The operational life of the International Space Station until 2030. Consider the science and technology stream Discoveries That flowed from the orbiting laboratory, it is not difficult to see why. Early critics of the International Space Station, including the late James Van Allen, were accurate She lost her credibility.
Congress does not seem to have any urgency about planning a future beyond the International Space Station. 2030 is nearly 10 years. Elected politicians do what they do best, and kick the box on the road.
Meanwhile, NASA is doing what it can, given the resources allocated, to help start making commercial space stations. An inflatable unit called Packages, Courtesy of Bigelow Aerospace, has been attached to the International Space Station for the past three years. Unfortunately, a number of factors, not the least of which are the coronavirus pandemic, have forced Bigelow to lay off its workforce entirely. Bigelow is now seeking funding from NASA for a free-to-fly space station built with its inflatable modules, ironically, using a technology developed by the space agency called TransHab.
AxiomSpace won approval to attach one of its modules to the International Space Station. Don’t wait for Congress to fund NASA, Axiom has announced a facility to manufacture space station modules at Ellington SpacePort in Houston. The company will also have special facilities to train astronauts.
Besides employing 1,000 people, the new Axiom facility represents a commitment to building a commercial space station industry. The fact that a company wants to invest money to build parts of a private space station should have an impact on other stakeholders. Axiom should be able to attract commercial clients willing to pay for the time they spend in a research lab orbiting space.
Nor is the location of the Axiom facility in Texas an accident. The Texas congressional delegation has been, for obvious reasons, supportive of NASA and, increasingly, the commercial space sector that has expanded its presence in Lone Star in recent years. The good old policies that make the House of Representatives and Senators prefer to fund projects mean that jobs in their states will combine with sound space policy to help increase funding in the coming years.
It is also no coincidence that the Axiom facility is about a five-hour drive from the growing Port of SpaceX in Boca Chica near the southern tip of Texas. There is no doubt that SpaceX CEO Elon MuskRichest Elon Reeve added MuskWorld .8T to their combined fortune in 2020, Trump ends the 12-year Obama administration as the man most admired: Gallup Apple CEO ignored a meeting request to discuss the sale of Tesla, Musk says. We will be pleased to launch completed units into space, using the powerful Starship rocket, and subsequently crews and cargo.
In the midst of a pandemic, part of the space future is forming in southern Texas. This time it is led by the private sector. It would have been better for NASA to jump on board or risk being left behind.
Mark Whittington, who writes a lot on space and politics, published a political study of space exploration titled Why is it difficult to return to the moon? as long “Moon, Mars and beyond. It is blogged in Corner of the foxes. It was published in The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, The Hill, USA Today, Los Angeles Times and The Washington Post, among other places.