Space News's Space agencies support ISS extension as NASA warns of space race with China says:

COLORADO SPRINGS — NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said he remains confident that Russia will remain a part of the International Space Station through the end of the decade but warned of an emerging space race with China.

Speaking on a panel with the heads of seven other space agencies at the 36th Space Symposium here Aug. 25, Nelson said that he didn’t believe media reports out of the Russia from earlier this year that claimed Roscosmos might end its participation on the ISS as soon as the middle of the decade to develop its own station.

“Despite what you read in the press, I think that the cooperation with the Russians, which has been there ever since 1975, will continue,” he said, referring to the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project mission in 1975 when an Apollo spacecraft docked with a Soyuz spacecraft.

As evidence of that, he said, was the docking last month of a new Russian module, called Nauka, with the station. “We expect our Russian partners to continue with us, and we expect to expand the space station as a government project all the way to 2030.”

Nelson has long advocated an extension of the ISS to 2030, although the U.S. Congress has yet to formally authorize such an extension. Any extension of the ISS would require the agreement of the other station partners: Canada, Europe, Japan and Russia.

In an Aug. 23 interview here, Josef Aschbacher, director general of the European Space Agency, said he backed extending the ISS. “Personally, I would strongly support it,” he said, but added that would require support from ESA’s member states. “I would certainly be very happy to present them a proposal for extended use of the ISS.” That would likely be at the next ESA ministerial meeting in late 2022.

One of ESA’s largest member states does support extending the station. “ISS is, from our point of view, tremendous infrastructure,” said Walther Pelzer, head of the German space agency DLR, on the panel.

“It is a political statement that we can work together and, from this point of view, it has been and will be something that Germany will support as long as possible,” he said. “We are very happy that NASA is going in the direction of 2030.”

Formal German support for an ISS extension may wait until after the German elections in late September, Pelzer said, “but I am positive that this will be something we will see in the future.”

Question: Why would the US need it's ISS partners to agree to extend its mission? Is it strictly an issue of money, or is it also resources, or even more complicated?

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    $\begingroup$ The obvious, non space-related answer, is politics: it wouldn't be much of a beacon of international cooperation if there was no international cooperation. $\endgroup$ Aug 26, 2021 at 14:50
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    $\begingroup$ The short answer, which can be developed by whoever cares into a full answer, is that all of the IPs are involved in the operations and maintenance of the vehicle. ESA has a control room for the Columbus lab, JAXA has one for the JEM. Without Canada, you lose the entire robotics infrastructure. Without Russia, ISS has no responsive propulsive capability. $\endgroup$
    – Tristan
    Aug 27, 2021 at 3:32
  • $\begingroup$ Remember that it was the US, and only the US, that wanted to withdraw from the ISS. This effectively forced Russia to start thinking about alternate plans. space.stackexchange.com/questions/8514/… Now the US has changed its mind in the other direction, but the Russians are still thinking about the alternates, and about the whimsical unpredictability of their partner in the ISS $\endgroup$ Aug 28, 2021 at 7:21
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    $\begingroup$ @PcMan Did you even read the question to which you linked? Russia toyed with the idea of withdrawing components from the ISS from 2009 to 2017. $\endgroup$ Aug 29, 2021 at 11:59

1 Answer 1


Is it strictly an issue of money, or is it also resources, or even more complicated?

Resources are money, or at least they can be measured in terms of money. The question can thus be reduced to "is it strictly an issue of money, or even more complicated?"

The answer to the question yes. This is not an either/or question.

Regarding money, NASA pays the majority of the monies needed to expand, maintain, and operate the ISS. NASA's annual budget for the ISS is 3 to 4 billion US dollars per year. That's about half of NASA's overall human space exploration budget. In contrast, Russia's costs with regard to the ISS are a bit over 4 billion US dollars per decade. Convincing the US Congress to promise to support the ISS at that expenditure (or more; the ISS is degrading) for many years is one of the biggest impediments to these joint agreements.

Regard "even more complicated", it is more complicated than just money (or resources). The "I" in ISS is short for International. That it is an international asset requires an Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) between all of the partner organizations, and Memoranda Of Understanding (MOUs) between NASA and each of the other individual partner organizations. These are not quite treaty level agreements, but they're close to it. National level and international level politics are involved. Political issues make money issues look like child's play.

  • $\begingroup$ They say "time is money" but we can't actually purchase time with money. And without a substantial amount of time money can not be directly converted to resources, and ISS operations probably can't be put on hold arbitrarily. So unless things like this are COTS-like, resources are money + time. $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Aug 30, 2021 at 6:50
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    $\begingroup$ @uhoh As far as the US Congress is concerned, and also similar organizations in other countries, the primary concerns for most projects are how much money needs to be spent every year, over what expanse of time they are agreeing to spend that much money per year, and how much money is going to their district / their state. As far as the US Congress is concerned, resources are money, and so is time. The US Congress doesn't like have to obligate money for eight or nine years. But when multinational politics comes into play, that amplifies concerns by a huge amount. $\endgroup$ Aug 31, 2021 at 4:42

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