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NASA Authorization Bill to extend space station till 2030

NASA authorization bill has been introduced in the US Congress by Senator Ted Cruz of Texas. Along with Senator Cruz, Chairman and Ranking Member of the full committee, Roger Wicker (R-MS) and Maria Cantwell (D-WA), and subcommittee Ranking Member Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) co-sponsored the bill. The 2019 NASA budget proposed to end funding for ISS by 2025 because it looked at possible players to pitch to operate certain elements or capabilities of the ISS as part of a future commercial platform.

The new bipartisan bill would extend the lifetime of International Space Station (ISS) to 2030, from the current 2024. It would also extend the duration of the exemption for a non-proliferation law that has been granted to NASA to procure ISS-related products or services from Russia till 2030.  The exemption, which allows NASA to trade with Russia for crew transportation services to ISS, would cease in 2020, and NASA was eager to have it extended further for more seats on Soyuz.

The bill affirms the same funding for NASA that was approved in FY2020 Commerce-Justice-Science (CJS) appropriations bill — $22.75 billion. Overall the bill encourages human spaceflight, aeronautics and NASA’s STEM engagements.

Also Read: If NASA exits, what is the future for International Space Station?

Human Space flight and STEM programs have been prioritized in the bill.  “By extending the ISS through 2030, this legislation will help grow our already burgeoning space economy, fortifying the United States’ leadership in space, increasing American competitiveness around the world, and creating more jobs and opportunity here at home”, said Senator Cruz.

Maria Cantwell said that the legislation “expands NASA’s important role in inspiring and educating the next generation of the nation’s STEM workforce so that America has the people necessary to keep pushing the boundaries of innovation.”

NASA has been unable to send astronauts to the ISS since the space shuttle program was terminated in 2011.  The agency Russia for crew transportation services, but needs a waiver from the Iran-North Korea-Syria Nonproliferation Act (INKSNA) to continue that. The act was implemented in in 1999 when allegations surfaced that entities of Russia’s space agency were breaching the Missile Technology Control Regime.  Congress granted waivers in 2005, 2008, and January 2013 (Sustainability Act, P.L. 112-273), but that expires on December 31, 2020.

In 2005 NASA Authorization Act, Congress U.S. segment of ISS as a “national laboratory”. The Cruz bill mentions the importance of ISS, authorizing its operation through at least 2030, an extension from 2024, and of the need to have a human presence in low Earth orbit (LEO) after it is decommissioned.

NASA did not expect to need Russian services after that because the new U.S. commercial crew systems would be operational, but ongoing schedule make cooperation with Russia necessary.