Redistributed as a Service of the National Library for the Environment*
IB93017: Space Stations
Marcia S. Smith
May 16, 2001
Congress continues to debate NASA's program to build a permanently occupied space station in Earth orbit where astronauts live and conduct research. NASA expects that research performed in the near-zero gravity environment of the space station will result in new discoveries in life sciences, biomedicine, and materials sciences. The program is currently called the International Space Station (ISS); the facility itself does not have a name although individual modules do.
The space station is being assembled in Earth orbit. Almost 90 launches are needed to take the various segments, crews, and cargo into orbit. The first launches have taken place. The original date to complete assembly, June 2002, has slipped to April 2006, with at least 10 years of operations expected to follow. Crews are expected to rotate on 4-6 month shifts. The first crew rotation has taken place and the "Expedition 2" crew is now aboard. Congress appropriated about $27.6 billion for the program from FY1985-2001. For FY2002, $2.1 billion is being requested.
Canada, Japan, and several European countries became partners with NASA in building the space station in 1988; Russia joined in 1993. Brazil also is participating, but not as a partner. Except for money paid to Russia, there is no exchange of funds among the partners. Europe, Canada, and Japan collectively expect to spend about $9 billion of their own money.
President Clinton's 1993 decision to bring Russia into the program was a dramatic change. Under the 1993 agreement, Phase I of U.S./Russian space station cooperation involved flights of Russians on the U.S. space shuttle and Americans on Russia's Mir space station. Phases II and III involve the construction of ISS as a multinational facility.
In 1993, NASA said the space station would cost $17.4 billion for construction; no more than $2.1 billion per year. The estimate did not include launch or other costs. NASA exceeded the $2.1 billion figure in FY1998, and the $17.4 billion estimate grew to $24.1-$26.4 billion. Congress legislated spending caps on part of the program in 2000. Cost growth of another $4 billion has been announced since. NASA has proposed indefinitely deferring construction of some hardware to reduce costs to stay within the cap.
Controversial since the program began in 1984, the space station has been repeatedly designed and rescheduled, often for cost-growth reasons. Congress has been concerned about the space station for that and other reasons. Twenty-two attempts to terminate the program in NASA funding bills, however, were defeated (3 in the 106th Congress, 4 in the 105th Congress, 5 in the 104th, 5 in the 103rd, and 5 in the 102nd). Three other attempts in broader legislation in the 103rd Congress also failed.
Current congressional debate focuses on whether Russia can fulfill its commitments to ISS and the cost and schedule implications if it cannot; whether NASA is correctly interpreting the Iran Nonproliferation Act in terms of what items may be purchased from Russia whether or not Russian entities are proliferating certain technologies to Iran; and the recently revealed $4 billion in cost growth in NASA's part of the program, and the resulting possibility that portions of the space station may not be built.
The "Expedition 2" crew--Yuri Usachev, Commander; James Voss and Susan Helms, flight engineers--continues its work aboard the International Space Station (ISS). The Expedition 2 crew has been on the station since March and is scheduled to be replaced by a new space station crew in July.
NASA and Congress continue to debate issues arising from the flight of American millionaire Dennis Tito to ISS with a two-man Russian crew earlier this month. That crew returned to Earth on May 6. Mr. Tito reportedly paid $10-20 million for the flight. Because he is the first to pay his own money for a spaceflight, he is often referred to as the first "space tourist." Originally, Mr. Tito was to fly to Russia's Mir space station, but after Russia decided to deorbit Mir, Russia announced its intention to send Mr. Tito to ISS instead. The United States, Europe, Japan, and Canada insisted that he was not sufficiently trained and that the pace of activity on ISS is too intense for the crew to be distracted by having a nonprofessional astronaut aboard. Russia asserted that he was adequately trained and would not interfere with operations. NASA Administrator Goldin told a House Science subcommittee on May 2 that NASA would bill Russia if it determined that the agency incurred any additional costs incurred because of Tito's flight.
In February, NASA revealed $4 billion in cost growth over the next 5 years above last year's $24.1-$26.4 billion estimate. That level already was an increase over the original 1993 estimate of $17.4 billion. The new estimate would be $28-30 billion, higher than the cap of $25 billion set by Congress last year. To reduce costs, NASA has proposed terminating ISS construction after the "U.S. Core" is complete and European and Japanese laboratory modules are launched. The proposal is to indefinitely defer the Habitation Module and Crew Return Vehicle (CRV), and reduce the ISS scientific research budget by 36%. NASA already has cancelled the Propulsion Module. One alternative to the CRV would be to purchase additional Soyuz lifeboats from Russia. Each can accommodate three people, so if two were simultaneously docked at the station, six people could be returned in an emergency allowing crew size to increase to six. The current agreement is for only one at a time, however. At a May 9 Senate Appropriations VA-HUD-IA subcommittee hearing, however, Mr. Goldin ruled out that possibility because of how Russia handled the Tito situation. ISS will remain dependent on Russia for Soyuz lifeboats, and crew size will be limited to three, until and unless NASA or another partner builds an alternative. ISS will be dependent on Russia for reboost to keep the space station at the proper altitude (except for limited capabilities provided by the space shuttle) at least until 2004 when a European alternative is expected to be available.
NASA launched its first space station, Skylab, in 1973. Three successive crews were sent to live and work there in 1973-74. It then was unoccupied until it reentered Earth's atmosphere in July 1979, disintegrating over Australia and the Indian Ocean. Skylab was never intended to be permanently occupied. The goal of a permanently occupied space station with crews rotating on a regular basis was high on NASA's list for the post-Apollo years. In 1969, Vice President Agnew's Space Task Group recommended a permanent space station and a reusable space transportation system (the space shuttle) to service it as the core of NASA's program in the 1970s and 1980s. Budget constraints forced NASA to choose to build the space shuttle first. When the shuttle was declared operational in 1982, NASA was ready to initiate the space station program.
In his January 25, 1984 State of the Union address, President Reagan directed NASA to develop a permanently occupied space station within a decade and to invite other countries to participate in the project. On July 20, 1989, the 20th anniversary of the first Apollo landing on the Moon, President George H. Bush gave a major space policy address in which he voiced his support for the space station as the cornerstone of a long-range civilian space program eventually leading to bases on the Moon and Mars.
President Clinton was strongly supportive of the space station program, and dramatically changed its character in 1993 by adding Russia as a partner to this already international endeavor. Adding Russia made the space station part of the U.S. foreign policy agenda to encourage Russia to abide by agreements to stop the proliferation of ballistic missile technology, and to support Russia economically and politically.
President George W. Bush has not yet made a statement about his position on the space station program, although his FY2002 budget calls for indefinitely deferring some space station capabilities in order to curb costs, while still meeting U.S. commitments to Europe and Japan to launch their laboratory modules.
NASA began the current program to build a space station in 1984 (FY1985). In 1988, the space station was named Freedom. Following a major redesign in 1993, NASA announced that the Freedom program had ended and a new program begun, though NASA asserts that 75% of the design of the "new" station is from Freedom. The new program does not have a formal name and is simply referred to as the International Space Station (ISS). Individual ISS modules have various names. ISS is a laboratory in space for conducting experiments in near-zero gravity ("microgravity"). Life sciences research on how humans adapt to long durations in space, biomedical research, and materials processing research on new materials or processes are underway or contemplated. From FY1985 through FY2001, Congress appropriated approximately $27.6 billion for the space station program (a year-by-year table is included under Congressional Action below).
When NASA began the space station program in 1984, it said the program would cost $8 billion (FY1984 dollars) for research and development (R&D--essentially the cost for building the station without launch costs) through completion of assembly. From FY1985-1993, NASA was appropriated $11.4 billion for the Freedom program. Most of the funding went for designing and redesigning the station over those years. Little hardware was built and none was launched. Major redesigns were made in 1986, first in response to cost issues and user requirements and later in the wake of the space shuttle Challenger tragedy; in 1987 due to rising costs, which led NASA to split the program into two phases, the second of which ultimately disappeared; in 1989 due to rising costs and expected future budget constraints; and in 1990-1991 due to congressional concerns over rising costs, higher than expected requirements for astronauts to perform extravehicular activity (EVA, or spacewalks) to assemble and maintain the station, and other issues.
The 1991 restructuring evoked concerns about the amount of science that could be conducted on the scaled-down space station. Both the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) and the Space Studies Board (SSB) of the National Research Council (part of the National Academy of Sciences) concluded that materials science research could not justify building the space station, and questioned how much life sciences research could be supported, criticizing the lack of firm plans for flying a centrifuge, considered essential to this research. NASA subsequently agreed to launch a centrifuge.
In 1988, after 3 years of negotiations, Japan, Canada and 9 European countries under the aegis of the European Space Agency (ESA) agreed to be partners in the space station program (two more since have joined). An Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) on a government-to-government level was signed in September, and Memoranda of Understanding (MOUs) between NASA and the other relevant space agencies were signed then or in 1989. The partners agreed to provide hardware for the space station at their own expense, a total of $8 billion at the time.
Cost estimates for Freedom varied widely depending on when they were made and what was included. Freedom was designed to be operated for 30 years. As the program ended in 1993, NASA's estimate was $90 billion (current dollars): $30 billion through the end of construction, plus $60 billion to operate it for 30 years. The General Accounting Office (GAO) estimated the total cost at $118 billion, including 30 years of operations.
In early 1993, NASA revealed $1 billion in cost growth on the Freedom program. President Clinton gave NASA 90 days to develop a new, less costly, design with a reduced operational period of 10 years. A new design, Alpha, emerged on September 7, 1993, which NASA estimated would cost $19.4 billion. It would have used some hardware bought from Russia, but Russia was not envisioned as a partner. Five days earlier, however, the White House announced it had reached preliminary agreement with Russia to build a joint Russian/American space station. Now called the International Space Station (ISS), it superseded the September 7 Alpha design. NASA asserted it would be a more capable space station and ready sooner at less cost to the United States. Compared with the September 7 Alpha design, ISS was to be completed 1 year earlier, have 25% more usable volume, 42.5 kilowatts more electrical power, and accommodate 6 instead of 4 crew members. ISS is being built in an orbit inclined at 51.6o, the same as that used by Russian space stations, rather than the 28.8o orbit NASA planned to use, so Russian as well as U.S. launch vehicles can service the station.
In 1993, President Clinton pledged to request $10.5 billion ($2.1 billion a year) for FY1994-1998. NASA said the new station would cost $17.4 billion to build, not including money already expended on the Freedom program. That estimate was derived from the $19.4 billion estimate for the September 7 Alpha design minus $2 billion that NASA said would be saved by having Russia in the program. The $2.1 billion and $17.4 billion figures became known as "caps," though they were not set in law. By 2000, the program's cost had risen to $24.1-26.4 billion, and the $2.1 billion "cap" was exceeded in FY1998. Congress now has legislated caps on parts of the program (see ISS Costs, Caps...).
The Freedom program was criticized for its complex management structure. As part of the 1993 redesign, NASA named Boeing as the prime contractor with McDonnell Douglas and Rockwell as subcontractors. Boeing later bought Rockwell's space and defense business, and then merged with McDonnell Douglas. NASA's Johnson Space Center (JSC) near Houston, TX was given all program implementation responsibilities. (In February 2001, program management reporting responsibilities were at least temporarily shifted to NASA Headquarters instead of JSC because of the $4 billion in cost growth discussed below.)
The current International Space Station program began in 1993, with Russia added as a partner, joining the United States, Europe, Japan, and Canada. The 1993 and subsequent agreements with Russia on space station cooperation established three phases of cooperation (see below) and the payment to Russia, originally, of $400 million ($100 million per year for FY1994-1997). In 1996, NASA increased from $400 million to $473 million the amount of money it would pay Russia for these purposes. Of the $473 million, approximately $323 million was for Phase I and $150 million is for Phase II. (Through the end of 2000, NASA had sent a total of approximately $800 million to Russia for space station cooperation through this and other contracts. A request to transfer another $24 million is pending.)
Phase I: The Shuttle-Mir Program. Phase I has been completed. During that phase (1995-1998), seven U.S. astronauts remained on Russia's space station Mir for long duration (several month) missions with Russian cosmonauts, Russian cosmonauts flew on the U.S. space shuttle seven times, and nine space shuttle missions docked with Mir to exchange crews and deliver supplies. Repeated system failures and two life-threatening emergencies on Mir in 1997 (see CRS Report 97-685) raised questions about whether NASA should leave more astronauts on Mir, but NASA decided Mir was sufficiently safe to continue the program.
Phases II and III: ISS Design, Schedule, and Lifetime. NASA identifies Phases II and III of space station cooperation separately, but they blend into each other and ultimately would result in a multinational space station built by the United States, Russia, 10 or 11 European countries, Japan, Canada, and Brazil (which is not a partner on the program, but has a bilateral agreement with NASA to participate). The White House and NASA have recently proposed dramatic changes to the ISS program in response to $4 billion of cost growth. Since that is still a proposal, the following paragraphs describe the program as it existed in January 2001. The proposed changes are discussed in the next section.
Boeing is the U.S. prime contractor for ISS. Construction is expected to take more than 7 years and be completed around April 2006 (originally it was to have been completed in June 2002). NASA originally stated that ISS would be operated for 10 years, with a possibility for 5 additional years if the research was considered worthwhile. Using the original completion date of 2002, that would have meant guaranteed operations through 2012. As the time frame for building the station slipped beyond 2002, NASA stated that it would operate the station until 2012 regardless of when construction is completed, with subsequent peer review determining whether continued operation was warranted. That would mean a shorter guaranteed lifetime. By 2000, NASA had returned to stating that it would operate the station for at least 10 years. Whether NASA, a non-governmental organization, or the private sector will operate the space station is currently being discussed (see Issues below).
ISS is being taken into orbit in segments and assembled there. Four major modules are now in orbit: the first two, Zarya (Sunrise) and Unity, were launched in 1998; followed by Zvezda (Star) in 2000 and Destiny in 2001. NASA paid for, built, and launched Unity and Destiny. NASA paid for Zarya; it was built and launched by Russia. Russia paid for, built, and launched Zvezda, which was launched more than 2 years late. NASA continues to revise the schedule for launching the remaining segments (the "assembly sequence"). The most recent public edition, "Rev F" (August 2000), shows completion of assembly in April 2006.
There are 50 launches in the "Rev F" assembly sequence of which nine have been accomplished (Zarya, Unity, Zvezda, Destiny, and five other shuttle missions). Of the 50 launches, 40 are American, 9 are Russian, and one is listed as unassigned (of the European Automated Transfer Vehicle) although Europe plans to launch ATV on its Ariane launch vehicle. In addition, Russia is expected to provide each year about two flights of its Soyuz spacecraft to take crews to the station and three to six Progress spacecraft to "reboost" the station's orbit periodically. NASA is concerned that Russia may not provide all of the Progress reboost flights and modified the space shuttle orbiters so they can provide a limited amount of reboost in case sufficient Progresses are not available. NASA established two other contingency plans: an Interim Control Module (ICM) built by the U.S. Naval Research Lab (NRL), and a Propulsion Module NASA itself planned to build. Following the successful launch of Zvezda, NASA directed NRL to put the ICM in "cold storage" such that if it were needed in the future, it would take 24-30 months to get ready. Delays and cost estimate increases led NASA to reevaluate its Propulsion Module concept, and led Congress to request a GAO study of the program. NASA then announced a new plan to procure a Propulsion "System" using a "structural test article" constructed as part of building the Unity module. Because of the cost growth announced in February 2001 (see below), NASA has canceled the Propulsion System.
The number of astronauts who can live on the space station is limited by how many can be returned to Earth in an emergency by "lifeboats" docked to the station. NASA has been planning to build a U.S. Crew Return Vehicle (CRV), but its availability date slipped to 2005. Until then, only Russian Soyuz spacecraft will be available as lifeboats. Each Soyuz can hold three people, limiting the space station crew size to three if only one Soyuz is attached. Each Soyuz must be replaced every 6 months. The U.S. CRV is expected to accommodate six or seven people and would have a lifetime of 3 years, reducing operational costs. Because of the cost growth revealed in February 2001, NASA is considering cancelling the CRV (see below).
Astronauts performing spacewalks (or "extravehicular activity"-- EVA) need to help assemble the segments in space. The number of spacewalks has grown from 434 hours (with 70-80 hours that NASA said it would eliminate) when the design was approved in 1993, to 888 hours in February 1995, to 1104 hours in May 1996, to 1519.5 hours in April 1997, to 1729 hours in December 1997. The number of spacewalks is important in terms of risk to the astronauts and potential program schedule slippage if they cannot be completed on time.
ISS Costs, Caps, Overruns, and Additional Money to Russia. In 1993, NASA said it would cost $17.4 billion to build the space station (variously called its "development cost," "construction cost," or "R&D cost") from FY1994 through completion of assembly in June 2002 ($206 million was carried over from the Freedom program, for a total program cost of $17.6 billion). NASA also estimated the space station program's life-cycle cost from FY1985-FY2012 (including funding spent prior to 1993, construction costs, associated shuttle launch costs, civil service salaries, and 10 years of operations) at $72.3 billion. A more recent NASA life-cycle estimate is not available. In 1998, GAO said that the life-cycle cost would be $95.6 billion (GAO/NSIAD-98-147). As of early 2000, NASA's estimate for construction alone (FY1994 through completion of assembly, slipped to 2006) was $24.1-$26.4 billion.
Caps. In 1993, NASA agreed that it would spend no more than $2.1 billion per year on ISS. The $17.4 billion and $2.1 billion figures became known as "caps," although they were not set in law. They did not include the cost of space shuttle launches needed to place ISS in orbit. Both were exceeded in 1997-1998. In 2000, Congress legislated caps on certain parts of the ISS program in the FY2000-2002 NASA authorization act (P.L. 106-391). The caps are $25 billion for development plus $17.7 billion for associated shuttle launches, but the act also authorizes an additional $5 billion for development and $3.5 billion for associated shuttle launches in case of specified contingencies.
$4 Billion Cost Growth. In February 2001, NASA revealed cost growth in the program that would exceed the legislated cap. NASA is still in the process of determining the extent of the cost growth, but its current estimate (March 2001) is $4 billion over the next 5 years (FY2002-2006). That would increase the cost to $28-30 billion, a 61-72% increase over the 1993 estimate. Some NASA officials expect that number to decrease, perhaps to $2-3 billion, once the agency has fully "scrubbed" the figures. Conversely, the $4 billion figure could grow if certain "threats" to the program that NASA has identified materialize. NASA characterizes the $4 billion as a "50-50" estimate in terms of the probability that it is correct. The cost growth was announced coincident with the release of President Bush's FY2002 budget blueprint, which proposed major changes to the program to bring it back under the cap. However, NASA and the Office of Management of Budget (OMB) still appear to be evaluating how to proceed. NASA emphasizes that what is in the budget is a proposal. Some NASA officials apparently hope that even though some segments may be deferred into the indefinite future, in time, the space station ultimately will have all its originally planned capabilities. It is not clear where the funding would come from, however.
If the proposal in the FY2002 budget is adopted, space station construction will end after the "U.S. core" is completed in late 2003 and modules built by Europe and Japan are launched. NASA estimates that these steps would reduce the space station construction cost to $22-23 billion. The proposal calls for indefinite deferral of the Habitation Module (the "Hab"), the Crew Return Vehicle (CRV), and the Propulsion Module, and could mean that several other segments--the Centrifuge Accommodation Module (CAM), "Node 3," a cupola, and the fourth solar array--scheduled for launch after completion of the U. S. core also may not be launched. However, the fate of those latter segments is quite unclear. CAM, Node 3, and the cupola are being built for NASA in exchange for NASA launching Japanese and European hardware (Japan is building CAM; Europe is building Node 3 and the cupola). Thus the cost to NASA would be only to integrate those segments into the space station, not to build them. NASA hopes the integration costs are small enough to be accommodated within the new budget envelope not only because it wants those capabilities, but because otherwise it would have to renegotiate the barter agreements. NASA appears to hope that remaining costs for the fourth solar array might also be accommodated to ensure adequate electrical power levels on the station.
Regarding the Hab, CRV, and Propulsion Module, NASA already has canceled the Propulsion Module. As discussed, plans to build that module developed because of concern that Russia could not fulfill its commitment to provide Progress spacecraft for reboost. NASA indicated in mid-2000 that it wanted a U.S. propulsion capability to reduce reliance on Russia and to ensure that ISS was not dependent on any other country for reboost. Hence, it did not at that time consider Europe's ATV as an alternative. NASA now expresses optimism that Europe will proceed with its plans to build ATV and apparently feels comfortable relying on Europe for this capability. The first of nine planned ATV flights is scheduled for 2004, meaning that ISS will remain dependent on Russia for reboost at least until then. Questions remain about Russia's financial ability to provide sufficient Progresses.
The Hab module and CRV are important for allowing crew size on ISS to grow from three to six or seven people. The additional crew members would conduct the scientific research that was foreseen as the major purpose of building a space station. If crew size is limited to three, research will be severely constrained because NASA estimates that "2 ½" people are required to operate ISS, leaving only half of one person's time for research. NASA also has proposed reducing the research budget by 36%. Instead of building the Hab module, as a barter arrangement, NASA and Italy reached a "framework" agreement in April 2001 for Italy to provide a module that would offer many "Hab" capabilities. Details are pending. If NASA proceeded with construction after "Core Complete" and Italy provided "Hab" functions, the question would still remain as to how to return a larger crew in an emergency. One Soyuz can satisfy the lifeboat function for only three people. If CRV is not built, additional Soyuzes (which must be replaced every 6 months) would have to be provided by NASA or another partner buying them from Russia (it seems unlikely that Russia would provide them at no cost). Another partner might choose to develop a lifeboat capability, although this would take considerable time and money. NASA is discussing the possibility of a joint CRV development program with Europe and with Japan. NASA plans to continue with the X-38 program that is expected to lead to a flight demonstration of a prototype CRV; Europe is participating in the X-38 program. NASA says that the X-38 program will reduce the technical risk that would be associated with a CRV if a decision is made to build one.
Evolution of Cost Growth and Funding Transfers Within NASA. Program cost growth concerns had first emerged publicly in early 1996. In March 1996, NASA Administrator Daniel Goldin gave the space station program manager control of money allocated for (and previously overseen by) the science offices at NASA for space station research. Congress gave NASA approval to transfer $177 million from those science accounts to space station construction in the FY1997 VA-HUD-IA appropriations act (P.L. 104-204). A similar transfer was approved for FY1996 ($50 million). NASA changed its accounting methods so future transfers would not require congressional action, and transferred $235 million from space station science into construction in FY1998. ("Space station science" funding is for scientific activities aboard the space station. It is separate from NASA's other "space science" funding, such as Mars exploration, astrophysics, or earth sciences.)
One factor in the cost growth was concern that Russia would not launch its Zvezda module on time. As insurance against Zvezda delays or a launch or docking failure, NASA decided to build the ICM (discussed earlier), which could substitute for Zvezda's guidance, navigation, and control functions. To cover cost growth associated with Zvezda's delay and the need to procure at least one ICM, NASA requested permission to move $200 million in FY1997 from the space shuttle and payload utilization and operations accounts to the space station program, and to transfer $100 million in FY1998 from unidentified NASA programs to the space station program. The latter request was not approved, but the appropriations committees did approve transferring the $200 million in FY1997.
In September 1997, NASA and Boeing revealed that Boeing's prime contract would have at least a $600 million overrun at completion, and that NASA needed $430 million more than expected in FY1998. Boeing's estimate of its contract overrun grew to $986 million in 1999, where it has remained; NASA estimates that overrun at $1.14 billion. Boeing's contract is currently valued at $9.6 billion and runs through December 31, 2003.
In March 1998, NASA announced that the construction cost estimate had grown from $17.4 billion to $21.3 billion. In April 1998, NASA released a review of space station costs conducted by an independent "cost assessment and validation" task force reporting to the NASA Advisory Council. Headed by Jay Chabrow, the report concluded that the space station's cost through assembly complete could be $24.7 billion and assembly could take 10-38 months longer. NASA agreed its schedule was optimistic and there would be about $1.4 billion in additional costs, but Administrator Goldin refused to endorse the $24.7 billion estimate. NASA's estimate as of early 2000 was $24.1-$26.4 billion. As noted, another $4 billion of cost growth now has been identified.
Additional Money to Russia. Meanwhile, NASA decided it needed to provide funding to Russia to ensure completion of Zvezda. This was in addition to more than $700 million NASA had transferred to Russia in exchange for goods and services since 1994. NASA formally notified Congress on September 29, 1998 of its plan to send another $60 million to Russia (from its FY1998 budget). The agency said the money would buy "up to" all the research time (4,000 hours) allocated to Russia during the assembly period, together with access to stowage space on Russian modules. The House and Senate appropriations subcommittees that oversee NASA (VA-HUD-IA) approved the transfer of the $60 million, but said they would view with "grave concern" a request for an additional $40 million NASA also had suggested it would need. NASA's authorizing committees (House Science and Senate Commerce) did not approve the $60 million transfer.
NASA also said it expected to transfer $100 million of its FY1999 space station funds to Russia. Of that, $65 million was expected to be for a Russian Soyuz spacecraft and the remainder for other Russian hardware and services. However, NASA learned that Russia was selling one Soyuz, two Progresses, and 45 days of research time on the Mir space station to an American venture capitalist for $20 million. NASA thereupon withdrew its plans to spend $65 million for a Soyuz and proceeded, on February 14, 2000, to request permission to spend $35 million of the FY1999 funding to buy Russian hardware and services. Of that amount, $14 million was for a "pressure dome" that would enable the U.S. ICM to dock with the Russian-built Zarya module in case of problems with the Zvezda launch. The request for the $14 million was approved, but after Zvezda was launched, the pressure dome was no longer needed. NASA had spent $11 million at that point. This means that the request to spend $24 million of the $35 million is still pending. Whether NASA will obtain approval to spend that money in Russia, and what it would buy, is undecided and could be affected by the Iran Nonproliferation Act (see below). No funds are included in NASA's FY2000 or FY2001 budget for transfer to Russia.
Risks and Benefits of Russian Participation, Including Proliferation Issues. In the report to accompany the FY1994 VA-HUD-IA appropriations bill (P.L. 103-124), Congress stated that Russian participation "should enhance and not enable" the space station. The current design, however, can only be viewed as being "enabled" by Russian participation. Today it is dependent on Russian Progress vehicles for reboost, to keep the station from reentering Earth's atmosphere; on Russian Soyuz spacecraft for emergency crew return; and on Russia's Zvezda module for crew quarters, which allows ISS to be permanently occupied.
The extent to which the program is dependent on Russia is important in terms of program risk. While there will be technical challenges, Russia's financial ability to meet its commitments has been a major issue for several years. Congressional and Clinton Administration concerns that Russia was not providing adequate funding to the companies (Khrunichev and Energia) building early space station hardware led to exchanges of letters, conversations, and meetings between then-Vice President Gore and Russian Prime Minister Chernomyrdin and his successors since the spring of 1996. Many assurances were not upheld, leading to skepticism on the part of U.S. officials as to Russia's financial ability and political resolve to meet its commitments. Mr. Koptev estimated in 1997 that Russia would spend $3.5 billion on its portion of the ISS (later he said $6.2 billion if launch costs were included), but it is not clear at this point how much money Russia will put into the program.
Political issues also are crucial. The overall relationship between the United States and Russia is one major factor. Another is the linkage between the space station and Russian adherence to the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) designed to stem proliferation of ballistic missile technology. Getting Russia to adhere to the MTCR appears to have been a primary motivation behind the White House's decision to add Russia as a partner. The United States wanted Russia to restructure a contract with India that would have given India advanced rocket engines and associated technology and know-how. The United States did not object to giving India the engines, but to the technology and know-how. Russia claimed that restructuring the contract would cost $400 million. The 1993 agreement to bring Russia into the space station program included the United States paying Russia $400 million for space station cooperation. At the same time, Russia agreed to adhere to the MTCR. The question is what the United States will do if Russia violates the MTCR. Some Members of Congress believe Russia already has done so. This was quite controversial during the Clinton Administration, which sanctioned 10 Russian entities for providing technology to Iran. Neither the Russian Aviation and Space Agency (RAKA, or Rosaviakosmos) nor any major Russian ISS contractors or subcontractors were among those sanctioned.
On March 14, 2000, President Clinton signed into law (P.L. 106-178) the Iran Nonproliferation Act (INA). The law, inter alia, prohibits NASA from making payments after January 1, 1999 in cash or in kind to Russia for ISS unless Russia takes the necessary steps to prevent the transfer of weapons of mass destruction and missile systems to Iran and the President certifies that neither the Russian space agency nor any entity reporting to it has made such transfers for at least one year prior to such determination. Exceptions are made for payments needed to prevent imminent loss of life by or grievous injury to individuals aboard ISS (the "crew safety" exception); for payments to construct, test, prepare, deliver, launch, or maintain Zvezda as long as the funds do not go to an entity that may have proliferated to Iran and the United States receives goods or services of commensurate value; and the $14 million for hardware needed to dock the U.S. ICM (see above). President Clinton provided Congress with the required certification with regard to the $14 million on June 29, 2000, but no certification was forthcoming for the remaining $24 million. Without such a certification, NASA would only be able to spend more money in Russia for ISS by meeting the one of the remaining exceptions-- maintenance of Zvezda (which is further defined in the law) and crew safety.
At a House International Relations Committee hearing on October 12, 2000, Members sharply criticized NASA's legal interpretation of the crew safety exception, which is worded as "imminent loss of life." NASA argued that "imminent" did not mean "immediate" and therefore many more situations were covered. Representative Rohrabacher, who was instrumental in placing the exception into the law, asserted that he meant for it to apply only in emergency situations. On September 11, 2000, President Clinton delegated responsibility for functions and authorities in the ISS-related sections of the Act to the NASA Administrator so it will be Mr. Goldin's decision as to what items to attempt to purchase from Russia under this or any other exception.
Russian adherence to MTCR was cited by the Clinton Administration as one of the benefits of involving Russia. That benefit is now in question along with another--financial savings. Clinton Administration and NASA officials asserted repeatedly in 1993 that a joint space station would accelerate the schedule by 2 years and reduce U.S. costs by $4 billion. This was later modified to one year and $2 billion, and an April 1, 1994 letter to Congress from NASA said 15 months and $1.5 billion. NASA officials continued to use the $2 billion figure thereafter, however. A July 1994 GAO report (GAO/NSIAD 94-248) concluded that Russian participation would cost NASA $1.8 billion, essentially negating the $2 billion in expected savings. In 1998, NASA's Associate Administrator for Human Spaceflight conceded that having Russia as a partner added $1 billion to the cost. Other benefits cited by the Clinton Administration were providing U.S. financial assistance to Russia as it moves to a market economy, keeping Russian aerospace workers employed in non-threatening activities, and the emotional impact and historic symbolism of the two former Cold War adversaries working together in space.
For FY2001, NASA requested and Congress appropriated (P.L. 106-377) $2.11 billion for the ISS. A Roemer amendment to terminate ISS was defeated (98-325) during consideration of the FY2001 VA-HUD-IA appropriations bill (H.R. 4635).
The FY2000-2002 NASA authorization bill (H.R. 1654) was signed into law October 30, 2000 (P.L. 106-391). During floor debate in the House on May 18, 1999, three Roemer amendments were rejected: one to cap funding at the same levels as in the Senate version (defeated 114-315); one to remove Russia as a partner in the program while still allowing NASA to purchase items from Russia (defeated 117-313); and one to terminate the program (defeated 92-337). As signed into law in 2000, the Act fully funds ISS in FY2001; sets a cap
of $25 billion for development costs for ISS plus $17.7 billion for related launch costs, excluding operations, research, and crew return activities after "substantial completion" of ISS; establishes an additional contingency fund of $5 billion for ISS development plus $3.5 billion for related launches; directs NASA to establish a non-governmental organization to manage research and commercial activities on ISS after assembly; prohibits NASA from funding Transhab, a proposed inflatable module to replace a traditionally designed module NASA plans to build for crew habitation, but permits NASA to lease such a module if the private sector builds it as long as the cost is the same or less than the traditional design and does not delay the schedule or increase risks; encourages NASA to seek reductions in ISS utilization rights for international partners that "willfully violate" their commitments; requires a study by the National Research Council and the National Academy of Public Administration of ISS life and microgravity research; and reduces from 5 to 3 years an ISS commercial demonstration program that was enacted in the FY2000 NASA appropriations act (P.L. 106-74).
For FY2002, NASA is requesting $2.087 billion for ISS. This is $229 million above what NASA said last year would be needed for FY2002. In total, the 5-year budget runout shown in the FY2002 budget request includes about $1 billion more for FY2002-2006 than had been planned last year. According to NASA, the increase is offset by redirecting the funding that had been planned for the Crew Return Vehicle, which previously had been carried in a different part of NASA's budget (under Aerospace Technology).
Canada, Japan, and most of the 15 members of the European Space Agency (ESA) have been participating in the space station program since it began. Formal agreements were signed in 1988, but had to be revised following Russia's entry into the program, and two more European countries also joined in the interim. The revised agreements were signed on January 29, 1998, among the partners in the ISS program: United States, Russia, Japan, Canada, and 11 European countries--Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom. Representatives of the various governments signed the government-to-government level Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) that governs the program. (The United Kingdom signed the IGA, but is not financially participating in the program so the number of European countries participating in the program is variously listed as 10 or 11.) NASA also signed Memoranda of Understanding for implementing the program with its counterpart agencies: the European Space Agency, the Canadian Space Agency, and the Russian space agency, RAKA. The IGA is considered a treaty in all the countries except the United States and must be ratified by those governments (in the United States it is considered an Executive Agreement). NASA has a bilateral agreement under which Italy is providing three "mini-pressurized logistics modules" (MPLMs). The first of these, Leonardo, was launched in March 2001. They are designed to be attached to ISS while cargo is transferred to the station, then filled with trash and returned to Earth. Another bilateral agreement was signed with Brazil in October 1997 for Brazil to provide payload and logistics hardware. According to NASA data provided to CRS in June 2000, these countries jointly have spent $4.5 billion of their own funding on the space station so far and expect to spend a total of $8.6 billion.
Canada is contributing the Mobile Servicing System (MSS) for assembling and maintaining the space station. In February 1994, the new prime minister of Canada had decided to terminate Canada's role in the program, but later agreed to reformulate Canada's participation instead. The first part of the MSS (the "arm") was launched in April 2001; the remainder (the Special Purpose Dextrous Manipulator, or the "fingers") is scheduled for late 2003. ESA is building a laboratory module called Columbus and an Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV). The major contributors are Germany (41%), France (27.6%) and Italy (17%). Budgetary difficulties over the years led ESA to cancel other hardware it was planning, but the agency remains committed to ATV and Columbus. ESA also is paying for Italy to build two of the three "nodes" (Node 2 and Node 3) needed for the ISS in exchange for free shuttle flights to launch its ISS hardware. Japan is building a laboratory module, the Japanese Experiment Module (JEM), named Kibo (Hope). Part of it will be pressurized and another part will be exposed to space (for experiments requiring those conditions). Japan is also planning to provide NASA with a large centrifuge and a module ("CAM") for accommodating it in exchange for free shuttle flights to launch JEM and its equipment. The fates of CAM and Node 3 are in question as described earlier.
Issues associated with Russia's participation in ISS are discussed elsewhere. This section explains Russian space station activities from 1971 to the present. The Soviet Union launched the world's first space station, Salyut 1, in 1971 followed by five more Salyuts and then Mir. At least two other Salyuts failed before they could be occupied. The Soviets accumulated a great deal of data from the many missions flown to these stations on human adaptation to weightlessness. The data were often shared with NASA. They also performed microgravity materials processing research, and astronomical and Earth remote sensing observations. Importantly, they gained considerable experience in operating space stations.
Russia's most recent space station was Mir, a modular space station that was built and operated between 1986 and 2001. Crews were ferried back and forth to Mir using Soyuz spacecraft (reminiscent of Apollo capsules). A Soyuz spacecraft was always attached to Mir when a crew was aboard in case of an emergency, and Soyuz capsules now are used as Crew Return Vehicles, or lifeboats, for ISS.
Crews occupied Mir from 1986-2000. For almost ten of those years (1989-1999), Mir was continuously occupied by crews on a rotating basis. Although occasionally crews stayed for very long periods of time to study human reaction to long duration spaceflight, typically crews remained for 5-6 months and then were replaced by a new set of cosmonauts. The longest continuous amount of time spent by a single individual on Mir was 14 months. From 1995-1998, seven Americans participated in long duration (up to 6 months) missions aboard Mir, and nine space shuttle missions docked with the space station. Individuals from Japan, Britain, Austria, Germany, France, and the Slovak Republic also paid for visits to Mir. Russia deorbited Mir into the Pacific Ocean on March 23, 2001.
When NASA, the Reagan Administration, and Congress considered the rationale for building a space station in the early 1980s, NASA summed it up by calling a space station "the next logical step" in the space program. In many respects, that is the fundamental rationale for the space station program. Human exploration of space appeals to what many believe is an innate desire to push the frontiers of human experience. They view the space station as the next step in America's--and humanity's--inexorable desire to explore new worlds. Life sciences research on the effects of long durations in weightlessness on human physiology is considered by some as a prerequisite to sending people to Mars, research for which a space station is required. Other supporters believe materials research conducted on a space station will lead to new profitable industries, although this rationale was dismissed by the White House science office and the National Academy of Sciences in 1991.
Human spaceflight is felt by many in the space community to be the heart and soul of the space program. For them, the debate over the space station is a debate over America's future in space and NASA's purpose. A rejection of the program would be viewed as an abandonment of the vision they perceive as inherent in a strong national program of civilian space activities. As a visible symbol of America's technological prowess, human spaceflight is often perceived as a centerpiece of an image of American preeminence.
This somewhat romantic view is in stark contrast to those who view human exploration of space as, at best, a waste of money, and at worst, an unnecessary exposure of humans to the hazards of space travel. These observers argue that there is much yet to explore here on Earth, and robotic spacecraft should be used to explore the heavens for safety and cost-effectiveness reasons. They see the Apollo, space shuttle, and space station programs as successive drains on resources that could be better used for robotic space activities, or non-space related activities.
Cost effectiveness involves what can be accomplished with the facility that is ultimately built versus its cost. In 1993, NASA said it would cost $17.4 billion to build the U.S. portion of the space station. That rose to $24.1-$26.4 billion by early 2000, with $4 billion more in cost growth announced in 2001. Cost estimates for the earlier Freedom design had risen significantly as the years passed, and with each Freedom redesign, the amount of science diminished. Many wondered whether the same fate awaited ISS. In FY1996, FY1997, and FY1998 NASA transferred a total of $462 million from the space station science accounts into space station construction. In response to the $4 billion in cost growth, NASA has proposed reducing the research budget by 36% and to indefinitely defer building hardware that would enable six or seven crew members to live aboard the station. Without it, crew size could be limited to three. Since NASA states that 2 ½ crew members are needed to operate the station, only half of one person's time would be available for research. The fate of the centrifuge and its accommodation module is uncertain. Many worry that as costs rise further, other NASA activities may suffer, despite assurances that cost growth will have to be accommodated within NASA's human spaceflight budget.
Congress has several options in response to the announced $4 billion in cost growth. It could choose to terminate the ISS program, although 22 attempts to do so since 1991 have failed. Congress could decide to stop construction, temporarily or permanently, now or at some other point along the assembly sequence, with reduced science capability and continued dependence on Russia for certain functions. Or Congress could decide to provide additional resources and relax the cap to ensure the station is completed as originally planned, or to build some, but not all, of the capabilities NASA is proposing to defer.
As NASA continues to struggle with building ISS, attention is also turning to who should operate the facility and how to encourage commercial use of it. At congressional urging, NASA has embraced the concept of space station commercialization, both in terms of station operations and getting the private sector to use research facilities on ISS on a commercial basis. In 1998, NASA proposed creation of a non-governmental organization (NGO) to oversee research on the space station, similar to the Space Telescope Science Institute at Johns Hopkins University that operates the Hubble Space Telescope.
The NGO would report to NASA. Others wants the private sector, not the government, to manage and operate the space station at some point in the future. Still others think there is a role for the private sector in building, not just operating the space station. In December 1999, the U.S. company Spacehab announced agreement with the Russian company Energia to build a commercial module to be attached to the Russian part of ISS. The companies planned to provide space-originated news, information, education, entertainment, and business advertising and promotion, broadcasting from the module for viewing on television and the Internet. In March 2001, however, they announced that they no longer expected substantial revenue from those activities, and would wait until one of the space station partners other than Russia committed to leasing the module (perhaps as crew quarters) before they construct it. On June 2, 2000, NASA announced a deal with DREAMTiME, a company that said it would, among other things, broadcast multimedia images from ISS and make documentaries about its construction.
NASA also has been exploring whether the private sector would build a module called "Transhab" for ISS. In theory, Transhab would replace the Habitation Module as the long term crew quarters. Transhab would be an inflatable module that its supporters argue could be a prototype for a craft to take crews to Mars. Inflatable modules are an innovative concept, making reliable cost estimating difficult. The idea was first broached and studied within NASA, but congressional concerns that it might add costs to the already overrun ISS program led to language in the conference report on the FY2000-2002 NASA authorization bill (P.L. 106-391) prohibiting NASA from spending funds on Transhab, but allowing NASA to lease such a module if the private sector builds it, with conditions.
More broadly, language in the FY2000 VA-HUD-IA appropriations act (P.L. 106-74) permits NASA to conduct a demonstration commercialization program for 5 years. Receipts collected from commercial use of ISS would be used first to offset costs incurred by NASA in support of commercialization with any remainder retained by NASA for promoting further ISS commercialization activities. NASA was directed to establish a pricing policy for use of ISS by commercial entities and it was released in February 2000. The chairs of the House and Senate Committees that authorize NASA activities (House Science and Senate Commerce) both objected to including the language because of concern that it would allow NASA to pick and choose winners. The FY2000-2002 NASA authorization act (P.L. 106-391) limits the project to 3 years.
The risks and benefits of Russia's participation in the program already have been discussed. Currently, the main issue is how to cope with the fact that the Russian government may not provide the funding needed to fulfill its commitments to the program. Assuming that U.S. policy remains to build the space station and include Russia, the keys are: how to limit the amount of money that is transferred to Russia and help ensure that it is used for the space station program and not for other purposes, and how to manage the construction of ISS amidst the uncertainty of when or if Russian hardware and services will be available. NASA's decision to put the ICM in "cold storage" and cancel the Propulsion System ensures ISS dependance on Russia for reboost (except for the very limited reboost capabilities of the U.S. space shuttle) at least through 2004. At that time, an alternative may be Europe's ATV. If the Crew Return Vehicle is canceled, ISS would remain dependent on Russia for "lifeboat" spacecraft indefinitely. As discussed earlier, the Iran Nonproliferation Act (INA) prohibits U.S. payments to Russia for ISS, with some exceptions, unless the government of Russia prevents Russian nuclear and missile technology from reaching Iran. NASA's interpretation of that law has stirred controversy and remains unresolved. The key question is what will happen if Russia insists it cannot fund reboost or lifeboat missions yet NASA is not permitted to transfer money to Russia for such missions because Russia is not in compliance with INA.
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