The Orlando Sentinel reported last night that the White House has approved plans to extend ISS operations beyond 2020 to 2024. NASA is expected to announce the extension this week, likely in conjunction with an international conference on space exploration featuring officials from over 30 nations tomorrow and Friday in Washington. Such an extension would require keeping the roughly $3-billion-a-year wedge for the program in the NASA budget into the mid-2020s, as the article reports; it also requires the assent of the station’s international partners.
The decision is at least a partial victory for NASA: the 2024 date falls short of the 2028 extension that some have advocated, noting technicals reviews have confirmed that the station’s components can continue operating until then, when the oldest modules turn 30 years old. In an email obtained by the Sentinel, NASA administrator Charles Bolden says the decision “will, hopefully, prove beneficial to our international partners as they struggle with decisions on funding for their space programs.” It’s not clear what would happen, though, if some of those partners decide not to continue funding station operations beyond 2020.