Biden expected to extend US support for ISS, reconsider future of Space Launch System rocket

We learned earlier this week that Vice President Joe Biden, if elected U.S. President, plans to appoint the first female NASA administrator. Now Reuters has published its own look at space policy of a possible Biden administration and what it could mean for SpaceX, Boeing, and other industry players.

Artemis and ISS

Reuters highlights policy differences on both the Artemis program and the fate of the International Space Station.

The current administration has a self-imposed deadline of returning astronauts to the Moon by 2024. That would put the milestone mission in the final year of a second and final term in office for President Trump. The current administration also plans to largely privatize ISS activity by 2025.

Biden, on the other hand, would likely call for a delayed moonshot and propose a funding extension for the International Space Station if he wins the White House, according to people familiar with the fledging Biden space agenda.

Pushing back the moon mission could cast more doubt on the long-term fate of Boeing Co’s BA.N Space Launch System (SLS) rocket, just as Elon Musk’s SpaceX and Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin scramble to bring rival rockets to market as soon as next year.

Administration changes aside, NASA is currently fighting for adequate funding on a necessary schedule to have a shot at meeting the 2024 deadline for the Artemis III mission.


So who is providing the Biden campaign with space policy? Reuters credits “20 former senior NASA officials and scientists” who could hold positions in NASA under a Biden administration.

Members of the subgroup also want to boost NASA funding for Earth science and support partnerships with other nations. They stressed that Biden’s space agenda, and the staff assignments to lead it, were in a formative stage as his campaign prioritizes more pressing issues, like the coronavirus pandemic and joblessness.

According to the report, members of this volunteer subgroup are not in agreement over the future of Boeing’s Space Launch System rocket being built for NASA.

The super heavy-lift rocket has been beset by development delays and cost overruns, but supports tens of thousands of jobs in Alabama and California and is seen by backers as central to NASA’s exploration plans and the only path to Trump’s 2024 timeline for the Artemis mission.

Critics say the rocket’s ageing technology and launch costs of $1 billion or more per mission should prompt a formal White House or Congressional review of the program, particularly if SpaceX and Blue Origin are able to offer new rockets at lower cost.

The fate of SLS could be left for NASA’s next administrator to decide, according to the report, which corroborates earlier reporting that the Biden camp plans to appoint the first female to the highest NASA position.

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