The Head of the European Space Agency (ESA) on Tuesday said privatising the International Space Station was unrealistic, amid U.S. plans to cease ISS funding in 2025.
“The total operation of the space station is simply too expensive,’’ Jan Woerner told newsmen in Paris.
The White House budget proposal on Monday would eventually end U.S. funding while possibly turning the orbiting laboratory over to private operators.
The 2019 fiscal plan, which includes a 10-year spending blueprint, is not formal legislation, and final congressional budget measures rarely conform to presidential proposals.
The ISS, which orbits some 400 kilometres above Earth, is currently supported in a joint project by the U.S., Russian, Japanese and European space agencies.
The station’s first component was launched in 1998, and construction continued until the end of the U.S. space shuttle programme in 2011.
Woerner said that the partners had committed themselves to fund the ISS only until 2024 and that the White House proposal implies further use.
“One could pose the question the other way round and say that the U.S. have now considered using the station beyond 2024 after all,’’ he said.
Washington has long made clear that it wishes to see the ISS become more commercial.
“But that will be supported with public funds after 2024 – of that you can be certain.
“We will attempt that from the European side as well,’’ Woerner said.
He pointed to the new Bartolomeo platform planned to conduct experiments of a more commercial nature on the outside of ESA’s Columbus laboratory on the ISS.