Analysis of US policy options for the future of the international space station

Sherrica Newsome, Namiko Yamamoto, Abraham Grindlei, Bradley Holschuhi, Masahiro Ono, Annalisa Weigel

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


The International Space Station (ISS) is set to retire in 2016, according to current United States (US) space policy. This paper answers three questions to be considered by Congress and the Obama Administration in order to make a final policy decision concerning the US's withdrawal from the ISS: • What do the international agreements say about US responsibility for the Space Station? • What are various policy options for the Space Station post-2016? • What are their various merits or drawbacks, from legal, engineering, risk, international relations, political, and cost perspectives, and impact upon other programs and priorities that have been established for NASA by the Administration and Congress? To answer these questions, this paper first develops an understanding of the historical development of Station. Next, the paper examines the Partner-States' positions and feelings towards the idea of ISS retirement. In addition to this stakeholder analysis, the legal, technical and budgetary problems with US ISS withdrawal are defined. Finally, four policy strategies are evaluated using several key metrics that are most important to the engineering and policy considerations from the US's point of view: (1) US ends the ISS program in 2016 and de-orbits Station, (2) US agrees to extend the ISS program until 2018 or 2020, (3) US ends ISS activities in 2016, but transfers responsibilities and thus allows ISS to continue, and (4) ISS is retired in 2016, but boosted to higher orbit for "deep storage." This evaluation indicates that a unilateral US decision to end the ISS program in 2016 will free NASA resources for Constellation. On the other hand, a decision to extend ISS through 2018/2020 would yield international goodwill for the US, which could be useful for future NASA human spaceflight collaborative proposals and for other US objectives in the international realm. Yet, it is important to note that there are means of affecting the balance of this tradeoff, which could potentially achieve some compromise of both objectives. The best policy choice will be determined by the priorities of the US national leadership, the evolving international environment, and technical details that were not available to this study.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationAIAA Space 2009 Conference and Exposition
StatePublished - 2009
EventAIAA Space 2009 Conference and Exposition - Pasadena, CA, United States
Duration: Sep 14 2009Sep 17 2009

Publication series

NameAIAA Space 2009 Conference and Exposition


OtherAIAA Space 2009 Conference and Exposition
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CityPasadena, CA

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Aerospace Engineering


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