Things are now clear for the NASA : the’ISS will not cross the course of the next decade. The US space agency plans to maintain the technical operation of the station until 2028 and the new administrator Bill Nelson wishes to push until 2030… but not beyond. In other words, in a little less than ten years, it will be private space companies which will ensure the “sleeping” of the astronauts in low orbit, the NASA preferring to place its financial efforts in scientific missions of exploration, such as Artemis (return to the Moon) or a future manned journey to Mars.
3D render of Orbital Reef station (Blue Origin)
NASA is already starting to prepare for this transition by increasing the number of contracts with American companies. While Space X is indeed NASA’s main private collaborator on exploratory missions, Blue Origin, Nanoracks, Northrop Grumman and Axiom Space occupy the field of future manned space stations. The first three cited have just signed contracts of respectively 130, 160 and 125.6 million dollars and the 4th (Axiom Space) had already collected 140 million dollars from an agreement signed last year.
NASA hopes to be able to ensure continuity and thus avoid “holes” between the scheduled end of the ISS and the start-up of private space stations, the agency keeping a high target of 200 experiments / year in orbit. Orbital Reef (Blue Origin) and Starlab (Nanoracks) stations should be the first to take over from the ISS.