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Trump Administration Plans To Privatize International Space Station

12 February 2018

The Trump administration is reportedly hoping to privatize the International Space Station.

Upon taking office, President Trump made no secret of his desire to run the White House, and basically the entire federal government, like a business.

As the Post notes, the station is no stranger to private industry; Boeing now operates it at a cost of $3 to $4 billion a year.

The supposed plan would end federal funding of the ISS in 2025, at which point a transition would occur in which the private sector would take over ISS ownership and operations.

Former astronaut Mark Kelly recently wrote in the New York Times that while there has been a surge of commercial activity in low-Earth orbit in the past few years, it would "come to a screeching halt" if the ISS and its government-funded scientific missions which now make those ventures possible were halted.

The US has reportedly spent almost $US100 billion ($A140 billion) to build and operate the ISS.

It said a White House budget request to be released Monday US time would request US$150 million in 2019, with more in additional years "to enable the development and maturation of commercial entities and capabilities which will ensure that commercial successors to the ISS-potentially including elements of the ISS-are operational when they are needed". "As a fiscal conservative, you know one of the dumbest things you can to is cancel programs after billions in investment when there is still serious usable life ahead", he said, though he qualified that he was open to "reasonable proposals".

The move could present a major roadblock to space exploration. "It's inherently always going to be an global construct that requires US government involvement and multinational cooperation".

The internal NASA document has scant details over how the privatization of the station would work. Frank Slazar, the vice president of space systems for the Aerospace Industries Association, pointed out to the Post that the global agreements the U.S. signed regarding the creation of the ISS would render making it a commercial outpost tricky.

In a statement, Boeing's Space Station manager Mark Mulqueen said that "handing over a rare national asset to commercial enterprises before the private sector is ready to support it could have disastrous consequences for American leadership in space and for the chances of building space-focused private enterprise".

It was not clear, however, how private companies might profit from taking over the aging station - its first section was launched in 1998.