Spaceflight Now Home


Sign up for our NewsAlert service and have the latest news in astronomy and space e-mailed direct to your desktop.

Enter your e-mail address:

Privacy note: your e-mail address will not be used for any other purpose.

European states finally agree to space station extension

Posted: March 23, 2011

Bookmark and Share

HOUSTON -- European Space Agency member states agreed last week to continue their involvement in the International Space Station program through 2020, but the nations will re-evaluate funding at the next space ministers' meeting in 2012.

The International Space Station as seen from the shuttle Discovery after departing in early March. Credit: NASA
ESA member states participating in the space station program committed 550 million euros, or about $777 million to cover their share of the outpost's exploitation program until the next ministerial council meets in 2012.

ESA is about an 8 percent partner in the orbiting space lab.

The funding decision was made at an interim ESA council meeting in Paris on March 16 and 17.

European governments also formally supported the continued use of the space station until at least 2020 after the program's other four partners already expressed support for the life extension.

But specific funding and program details beyond 2012 remain up in the air because the ESA council opted to defer those decisions until the next ministerial meeting.

During the 2012 council, government officials will try to resolve funding issues between member states, some of which wish to increase space station involvement as others prefer more modest investments.

Germany and France are at the center of the disagreement, which some officials fear could fester until next year's council meeting.

Other questions still unresolved include the potential evolution or redesign of the Automated Transfer Vehicle, Europe's homemade cargo freighter to deliver supplies to the space station.

At least three more ATVs are under contract for launch through 2014 to help pay for Europe's responsibility for the space station's operating costs. But ESA will have to supply more ATVs or find another way to pay the continent's share of lab's recurring costs if the station is extended until 2020.

ESA officials support altering the ATV's design to include a returnable capsule to bring cargo and experiments back to Earth, a capability the program will lack in significant quantities after the space shuttle is retired later this year.

Final Shuttle Mission Patch

Free shipping to U.S. addresses!

The crew emblem for the final space shuttle mission is now available in our store. Get this piece of history!

STS-134 Patch

Free shipping to U.S. addresses!

The final planned flight of space shuttle Endeavour is symbolized in the official embroidered crew patch for STS-134. Available in our store!

Ares 1-X Patch
The official embroidered patch for the Ares 1-X rocket test flight, is available for purchase.

Apollo Collage
This beautiful one piece set features the Apollo program emblem surrounded by the individual mission logos.

Project Orion
The Orion crew exploration vehicle is NASA's first new human spacecraft developed since the space shuttle a quarter-century earlier. The capsule is one of the key elements of returning astronauts to the Moon.

Fallen Heroes Patch Collection
The official patches from Apollo 1, the shuttle Challenger and Columbia crews are available in the store.



© 2014 Spaceflight Now Inc.