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NASA Outlines Cost Savings From ISS Transition

NASA expects that retiring the International Space Station in favor of leasing capacity on commercial space stations will ultimately save the agency up to $1.8 billion per year. That estimate comes from an updated ISS transition report published by last week. The report was submitted to Congress as an update to a 2018 report, required by providing a 2017  authorization bill seeking information on the agency’s utilization of the ISS and how it will shift to future commercial stations.

NASA currently spends about $3.1 billion a year on the space station program, with more than $1.3 billion going to station operations and research performed there and nearly $1.8 billion on crew and cargo transportation. A chart included in the transition report projected spending to remain flat through the fiscal year 2027.Spending would then temporarily increase in 2028 as NASA begins to decommission the station.

That decommissioning would include deorbiting the station in 2031 using three Progress cargo spacecraft, or possibly Cygnus cargo spacecraft, to bring the station down over an uninhabited region of the South Pacific Ocean regularly used for deorbiting spacecraft. Spending on both ISS operations and research and transportation to the station would be gradually phased out from 2028 through 2031, as spending increases on purchases of commercial low Earth orbit destination services, using commercial stations whose development NASA is currently supporting through the Commercial LEO Destinations (CLD) program. The report estimates that will spend about $1 billion a year on CLD services by 2033.

The report states that a few hundred million dollars of costs currently borne by the ISS program will be shifted to other parts of the agency. That is primarily mission control and related operations and civil servant labor. The rest will be savings: $1.3 billion in 2031, increasing to $1.8 billion in 2033. This amount can be applied to NASA deep space exploration initiatives, allowing the Agency to explore further and faster into deep space. This amount can also be applied to other programs.

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