LONDON — The heads of the five space agencies that own the international space station on Nov. 5 “noted” that the United States wants to operate the facility through at least 2024 but made no commitment to do likewise, citing ongoing efforts in some of their governments to secure commitments to 2020.
Meeting in Paris at the 20-nation European Space Agency, the heads of the U.S., Russian, Japanese and Canadian space agencies, as well as ESA’s director-general, issued a statement saying the space station is increasing its scientific output.
They reaffirmed that the station “is the foundation for human exploration beyond low-Earth orbit.”
ESA governments are expected to approve at least partial funding to permit Europe to remain a space station partner through 2020 when its government ministers meet Dec. 2. The heads of ESA and Japan’s space agency have both said station operating costs need to come down. Europe already has cut its annual operational costs by at least a third. Like the United States and Russia, both Europe and Japan have their own laboratory modules at the station.
Russian government officials in recent months have said tensions with the United States, Europe and Canada over Russia’s incursion into Ukraine have put into the deep freeze Russian deliberations about a prolonged space station partnership, although current operations have not been affected.
“The ISS partner agencies are working through their respective governmental procedures for continued ISS utilization through at least 2020 and noted the U.S. commitment to extend ISS utilization to at least 2024,” the agencies’ joint statement says. “They also noted the ongoing work by other governments for a similar extension. In reviewing the strong commitment that enabled 14 years of continuous human presence on ISS in low-Earth orbit, the agency leaders noted the stable, solid, and robust ISS partnership that will serve as the basis for working together in future human exploration.”