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House Science Leaders Examine Future of Low Earth Orbit

House Science Leaders Examine Future of Low Earth Orbit

The House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology recently convened a hearing to examine the current state of low-Earth orbit (LEO) activity and discuss NASA’s future LEO plans. This hearing also gave the Committee insight into NASA’s end-of-life planning for the International Space Station (ISS) and the status of commercial space station development. Committee leaders are concerned that following the decommissioning of the ISS, there could be a gap in LEO presence that could be disastrous for the future of the United States space activity.  
Witnesses included:  
  • Mr. Kenneth Bowersox, Associate Administrator, Space Operations Mission Directorate, National Aeronautics and Space Administration   
  • Dr. Mary Lynne Dittmar, Chief Government and External Relations Officer, Axiom Space   
  • Dr. Robert J. Ferl, Co-Chair, Committee on Biological and Physical Sciences in Space, The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine   
  • Mr. Dylan Taylor, Chairman and CEO, Voyager Space 

The ISS is the product of a partnership of five space agencies: NASA, Roscosmos (Russia), the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), the Canadian Space Agency (CSA), and the European Space Agency (ESA). NASA originally designed the ISS “with a life expectancy of 15 years and a safety factor of two, meaning it could operate to 30 years after the 1998 launch of its first segments.” As a result, initial timelines for the station planned for a 2015 retirement, with Congress later requiring the continued operation of the ISS through at least 2020 in the NASA Authorization Act of 2010. The Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act of 2015 further required that the ISS continue operations through at least 2024, and the recent CHIPS and Science Act required NASA to operate the ISS through September 2030. 

To watch an archived webcast of the hearing, visit:

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