Report: Trump administration looks into privatizing International Space Station

The Trump administration is considering a plan to cut off federal funding for the International Space Station and turn over parts of it to private industry, according to the Washington Post, which cites an internal NASA document. But the plan would likely face strong opposition.

“The decision to end direct federal support for the ISS in 2025 does not imply that the platform itself will be deorbited at that time — it is possible that industry could continue to operate certain elements or capabilities of the ISS as part of a future commercial platform,” an internal NASA document obtained by the Washington Post reads.

“NASA will expand international and commercial partnerships over the next seven years in order to ensure continued human access to and presence in low Earth orbit," the report continues.

The White House budget request, due to be released Monday, is expected to propose $150 million be allocated in fiscal year 2019 and beyond “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,” the Post reports.

NASA will release its budget request on Monday, February 12th, which reportedly contains the funding cut-off proposal. Congressional officials have slammed the reports, saying that the move would harm US public and private interests in space. However, this plan essentially follows what many expect for the future of the station: that commercial interests will eventually take over responsibility for the outpost as NASA refocuses on missions to the Moon and to Mars.

The US has been grappling with what to do with the station in recent years. In 2014, the Obama Administration and Congress extended support for the station through 2024, but its fate after that has remained unclear.

Privatizing the station was one of the options brought up in a House Subcommittee on Space hearing last year, with advocates saying that a transition to commercial hands would allow for continued operations. However, industry officials say that it would be better to continue to fund the station through 2028.

While private companies such as Orbital ATK and SpaceX already regularly fly to the station on resupply missions, the commercial spaceflight industry might not be fully prepared to take control of the station.

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