Monday, November 24th, 2014

The Obameter

Work with international allies on space station


"Will enlist international partners to provide International Space Station (ISS) cargo re-supply and eventually alternate means for sending crews to the ISS."


Updates

Obama budget would extend life of International Space Station

With the release of his fiscal year 2011 budget, President Barack Obama advanced his promise to continue working with the United States' international partners on the International Space Station.

Continuing to use the ISS over the longer term is not a foregone conclusion, since its expected retirement date is officially January 2016. But in seeking to continue utilizing the station until at least 2020, Obama followed the recommendation of the U.S. Human Space Flight Plans Committee, a blue-ribbon panel more commonly known as the Augustine Committee, after its chairman, Norman Augustine, the former CEO of Lockheed Martin.

That committee advised that "the return on investment of (the International Space Station) to both the United States and the international partners would be significantly enhanced by an extension of ISS life to 2020," according to a summary released last September. "It seems unwise to de-orbit the station after 25 years of assembly and only five years of operational life. Not to extend its operation would significantly impair U.S. ability to develop and lead future international space flight partnerships. Further, the ISS should be funded to enable it to achieve its full potential: as the nation's newest national laboratory, as an enhanced test bed for technologies and operational techniques that support exploration, and as a framework that can support expanded international collaboration."

The summary continued, "The strong and tested working relationship among international partners is perhaps the most important outcome of the ISS program. The partnership expresses a 'first-among-equals' U.S. leadership style adapted to today's multi-polar world."

The budget proposal would increase funding for the ISS by $463 million over fiscal year 2010 and by $2 billion over four years (between fiscal year 2011 and fiscal year 2014).

More strikingly, the administration's budget proposal explicitly echoed all of the arguments raised by the Augustine Committee. The proposal said the administration supports extension of the ISS's life "to 2020 or beyond" and seeks to accomplish this goal "in concert with our international partners." The proposal added that the ISS would continue in its role as a national laboratory and as a venue for improving NASA's "capabilities for operating in space."

As with all elements of the president's budget, nothing is final until Congress passes the relevant appropriations bills and the president signs them. Moreover, the summary did not get into details about how international cooperation can specifically help resupply efforts to the International Space Station, as the promise discussed. Still, the proposal is clearly an attempt to "enlist international partners" in the ISS, as the president had said he would do. So we are moving this one from In the Works to Promise Kept.

Sources:

Office of Management and Budget, NASA fact sheet from the president's fiscal year 2011 budget proposal, Feb. 1, 2010

 

National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Fiscal Year 2011 Budget Estimates, Feb. 1, 2010 

 

U.S. Human Space Flight Plans Committee, summary report , Sept. 8, 2009
 

 

E-mail interview with Marcia Smith of spacepolicyonline.com, Feb. 2, 2010

 

E-mail interview with Edward Ellegood, space policy analyst at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Feb. 12, 2010

International collabortation moves ahead on International Space Station

The preliminary report of a blue-ribbon space policy panel on Sept. 8, 2009, nudged forward several promises made by Barack Obama during the presidential campaign. One of those was to "enlist international partners to provide International Space Station cargo resupply and eventually alternate means for sending crews to the ISS."

A 12-page summary of findings was released by the U.S. Human Space Flight Plans Committee, a panel more commonly known as the Augustine Committee, after its chairman, Norman Augustine, the former CEO of Lockheed Martin. While the summary did not get into details about how international cooperation can specifically help resupply efforts to the International Space Station, the panel did reaffirm its support for the space station itself and for international collaboration on it.

"The committee finds that the return on investment of (the International Space Station) to both the United States and the international partners would be significantly enhanced by an extension of ISS life to 2020," the summary said. "It seems unwise to de-orbit the station after 25 years of assembly and only five years of operational life. Not to extend its operation would significantly impair U.S. ability to develop and lead future international space flight partnerships. Further, the ISS should be funded to enable it to achieve its full potential: as the nation's newest national laboratory, as an enhanced test bed for technologies and operational techniques that support exploration, and as a framework that can support expanded international collaboration."

The summary continued, "The strong and tested working relationship among international partners is perhaps the most important outcome of the ISS program. The partnership expresses a 'first-among-equals' U.S. leadership style adapted to today's multi-polar world."

Meanwhile, a NASA report released on Sept. 10, 2009, detailed the scientific experiments undertaken in recent years on the ISS. In an accompanying news release, NASA touted the contributions of such international allies as the European Space Agency and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency. "In 2009, the number of crew members increased from three to six, greatly increasing crew time available for research," the statement noted. "The stage is set for increased station scientific return when assembly and outfitting of the research facility is completed in 2010 and its full potential as a national and international laboratory is realized. Engineers and scientists from around the world are working together to refine operational relationships and build on experiences to ensure maximum use of the expanded capabilities."

This report, combined with the Augustine panel's statement, clearly supports continued operations for the ISS and strong support for international collaboration, even if details are scarce. Officially, the Augustine panel's findings are only options for the Obama administration to consider, and as of this writing, the full report is not even out. But its deliberations are being taken very seriously in NASA, in the White House, by lawmakers, and in the larger space community. For this reason, we rate this promise as In the Works.

Sources:

U.S. Human Space Flight Plans Committee, summary report , Sept. 8, 2009

NASA, news release on report about scientific work on the International Space Station, Sept. 10, 2009

E-mail interviews with Edward Ellegood, space policy analyst at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, September 2009

E-mail interviews with Marcia Smith of spacepolicyonline.com, September 2009