The International Space Station partners have committed to extending the operations of this unique platform in low Earth orbit where, for more than 22 years, humans have lived and worked for the benefit of humanity, conducting cutting-edge science and research in microgravity. The United States, Japan, Canada, and the participating countries of ESA (European Space Agency) have confirmed they will support continued space station operations through 2030 and Russia has confirmed it will support continued station operations through 2028. NASA will continue to work with its partner agencies to ensure an uninterrupted presence in low Earth orbit, as well as a safe and orderly transition from the space station to commercial platforms in the future.
“The International Space Station is an incredible partnership with a common goal to advance science and exploration,” said Robyn Gatens, director of the International Space Station Division at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “Extending our time aboard this amazing platform allows us to reap the benefits of more than two decades of experiments and technology demonstrations, as well as continue to materialize even greater discovery to come.”
Since its launch in 1998, the International Space Station has been visited by 266 individuals from 20 countries. The space station is a unique scientific platform where crew members conduct experiments across multiple disciplines of research, including Earth and space science, biology, human physiology, physical sciences and technology demonstrations that could not be done on Earth. The crew living aboard the station are the hands of thousands of researchers on the ground conducting more than 3,300 experiments in microgravity. Now, in its third decade of operations, the station is in the decade of results when the platform can maximize its scientific return. Results are compounding, new benefits are materializing, and innovative research and technology demonstrations are building on previous work.
The space station is one of the most complex international collaborations ever attempted. It was designed to be interdependent, relies on contributions from across the partnership to function, and no partner currently has the capability to operate the space station without the other.
With a continued foothold in low Earth orbit, NASA’s Artemis missions are underway, setting up a long-term presence at the Moon for science and exploration.
Read more about the International Space Station benefits for humanity: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/news/benefits-2022-book
The last sentence of the first paragraph of this press release made my eyes pop out:
“NASA will continue to work with its partner agencies to ensure an uninterrupted presence in low Earth orbit, as well as a safe and orderly transition from the space station to commercial platforms in the future.“
I told my wife this, and she commented “Wow! The commercialization of space continues.”
This made me wonder how a migration to commercial space platforms might affect astronomy in general, and the Vatican Observatory and its scholars in particular. One experiment that comes to mind is the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS) experiment which has been running on the ISS for years collecting data on hundreds of billions of cosmic ray events. I wonder what advanced astrophysics experiments might one day operate on these new commercial platforms, and if the Vatican Observatory will play a role with them?
I also wonder what this transition will look like; I doubt anything can be moved from the ISS to the new platforms, orbital mechanics being what they are… One thing I note is a lacking on these new platform concepts is a rotating torus for artificial gravity.
Commercial Space Platform Concepts
Image: Northrop Grumman’s free flyer commercial destination design leverages flight proven elements to provide the base module for extended capabilities including science, tourism, industrial experimentation, and building of infrastructure beyond initial design.
Image: Starlab, from Nanoracks, Voyager Space, and Lockheed Martin, is a continuously crewed, free-flying, commercial space station dedicated to conducting advanced research, fostering commercial industrial activity, and ensuring continued U.S. presence and leadership in low-Earth Orbit.