Order Code IB93017
CRS Issue Brief for Congress
Received through the CRS Web
Updated January 4, 2006
Marcia S. Smith
Resources, Science, and Industry Division
Congressional Research Service ˜ The Library of Congress
MOST RECENT DEVELOPMENTS
BACKGROUND AND ANALYSIS
The Space Station Program: 1984-1993
Space Station Freedom
1993 Redesign — The Clinton Administration Restructuring
The International Space Station (ISS): 1993-Present
ISS Design, Cost, Schedule, and Lifetime
September 1993-January 2001: The Clinton Administration
2001-Present: The George W. Bush Administration
Reviews of NASA’s Cost Estimates and Adding Funds for ISS
The Original Partners: Europe, Canada, and Japan
Risks and Benefits of Russian Participation
ISS and U.S. Nonproliferation Objectives, Including the Iran Nonproliferation Act
Key Issues For Congress
Maintaining ISS Operations While the Shuttle Is Grounded
Impact of President Bush’s Vision for Space Exploration, Including a Potential Gap in
U.S. Human Access to Space
Congress continues to debate NASA’s
International Space Station (ISS), a permanently occupied facility in Earth orbit where
astronauts live and conduct research.
Congress appropriated approximately $35
billion for the program from FY1985-2005.
The initial FY2006 ISS request was $2.180
billion: $1.857 billion for construction and
operations and $324 million for research to be
conducted by ISS crews. In a July budget
amendment, NASA transferred $168 million
for ISS Crew/Cargo Services to another part
of the NASA budget and reduced the ISS
request commensurately. The FY2006 appropriations act that includes NASA (P.L. 109108) cut $80 million from the originally submitted budget, and NASA now plans to spend
$306 million, instead of $324 million, on ISS
research in FY2006.
Canada, Japan, and several European
countries became partners with NASA in
building the space station in 1988; Russia
joined in 1993. Except for money paid to
Russia, there is no exchange of funds among
the partners. Europe, Canada, and Japan
collectively expect to spend about $11 billion
of their own money. A reliable figure for
Russian expenditures is not available.
In 1993, when the current space station
design was adopted, NASA said it would cost
$17.4 billion for construction (not including
launch or other costs). That estimate grew to
$24.1-$26.4 billion, leading Congress to
legislate spending caps on part of the program
in 2000. The estimate then grew by almost
another $5 billion, leading NASA (at White
House direction) to cancel or indefinitely defer
some hardware to stay within the cap. NASA
exceeded the cap in FY2005, however, and
pending legislation would repeal it.
The space station is being assembled in
Earth orbit. ISS segments, crews, and cargo
are taken into orbit by Russian or U.S. spacecraft. ISS has been permanently occupied by
successive “Expedition” crews rotating on 4-6
month shifts since November 2000. “Expedition 12” is now aboard. Cost growth and
schedule delays have characterized the program since its inception. The grounding of the
space shuttle fleet after the 2003 Columbia
tragedy and the July 2005 Discovery “Return
to Flight” mission is further affecting schedule, operations, and cost. Most of the
remaining ISS segments are designed to be
launched by the shuttle and construction
therefore is suspended. President Bush’s
January 2004 “Vision for Space Exploration”
also is affecting the ISS program. He directed
that the shuttle program be terminated in
2010, and that the focus of ISS-based research
be only that which supports his “Moon/Mars”
Vision instead of the broadly-based program
that was planned. Congress is debating those
Congressional Research Service
Controversial since the program began in
1984, the space station has been repeatedly
redesigned and rescheduled, often for costgrowth 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 were defeated, however (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
the impact of space shuttle-related delays, and
the future of ISS in light of President Bush’s
new exploration initiative.
The Library of Congress
MOST RECENT DEVELOPMENTS
The “Expedition 12” crew, American John McArthur and Russian Valery Tokarev,
continue their work aboard the International Space Station (ISS). ISS crews are taken to and
from the ISS on Russian Soyuz spacecraft while launches of the U.S. space shuttle are
grounded. Shuttle launches have been postponed until at least May 2006 because of a
problem during the most recent launch, STS-114, in July 2005 (see CRS Report RS21408).
Until then, U.S. astronauts will remain dependent on Russia for access to the ISS. Russia
has been providing crew transport and “crew return” (i.e., a “lifeboat” capability for
emergencies) services to NASA at no cost under a 1996 agreement. Russia’s obligations
under that agreement have been fulfilled with the launch of Soyuz TMA-7. It will remain
docked with the ISS during the Expedition 12 mission, scheduled to end in April 2006. In
the future, NASA will have to pay for Soyuz services. NASA was prohibited from doing so
unless Russia complied with the Iran Nonproliferation Act (INA), but Congress passed a new
law amending the INA (P.L. 109-112) that allows NASA to pay Russia for ISS-related goods
and services through January 1, 2012 (see CRS Report RS22270).
The original FY2006 request for the ISS was $2.180 billion: $1.857 billion for
construction and operations (including $160 million for ISS Crew/Cargo Services) and $324
million for research. On July 15, NASA amended that request, shifting the funds for ISS
Crew/Cargo services (which it then identified as $168 million) into a different budget
account, and commensurately reducing the ISS request. The agency later announced that it
planned to spend $306 million instead of $324 million on research in FY2006. In the
FY2006 Science, State, Justice and Commerce appropriations act (P.L. 109-108), which
includes NASA, Congress did not specify a total for the ISS program, but cut $80 million
from the ISS program, including $60 million from ISS Crew/Cargo Services. NASA’s
FY2006 funding is subject to a 0.28% across-the-board rescission in that law, and a 1%
rescission in the FY2006 Department of Defense appropriations act (P.L. 109-148).
Congress also passed a FY2007-2008 NASA authorization bill (S. 1281, P.L. 109-155). It
is primarily a policy act that does not specify funding levels for specific NASA programs,
only for the agency as a whole. It has a number of policy provisions related to the ISS,
including designating the ISS as a “national laboratory” and directing that 15% of funds
budgeted for the ISS research program be used for research that is not directly related” to
President Bush’s Vision for Space Exploration (the “Moon/Mars” program). Under the
President’s plan, research on the ISS not associated with the Vision was to be terminated.
See CRS Report RL32988 for details on the FY2006 NASA budget.
BACKGROUND AND ANALYSIS
NASA launched its first space station, Skylab, in 1973. Three crews were sent to live
and work there in 1973-74. It remained in orbit, 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 NASA declared the shuttle “operational” in 1982, it 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 join. On July 20, 1989, the 20th anniversary of the first Apollo landing on the
Moon, President George H. W. 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. That “Moon/Mars” program, the Space
Exploration Initiative, was not greeted with enthusiasm in Congress, primarily due to budget
concerns, and ended in FY1993, although the space station program continued.
President Clinton dramatically changed the character of the space station program in
1993 by adding Russia as a partner to this already international endeavor. That decision
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 as it transitioned from the Soviet era. The Clinton
Administration strongly supported the space station within certain budget limits.
President George W. Bush, prompted in part by the February 2003 space shuttle
Columbia tragedy, made a major space policy address on January 14, 2004, directing NASA
to focus its activities on returning humans to the Moon and someday sending them to Mars.
Included in this “Vision for Space Exploration” is a plan to retire the space shuttle in 2010.
The President said the United States would fulfill its commitments to its space station
partners, but the details of how to accomplish that without the shuttle were not announced.
The Space Station Program: 1984-1993
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 is
simply referred to as the International Space Station (ISS). Individual ISS modules have
various names. (Some refer to the facility as “Space Station Alpha,” but that is not its formal
name). ISS is a laboratory in space for conducting experiments in near-zero gravity
(“microgravity”). A broadly based research program was planned, but President Bush’s
Vision for Space Exploration would limit U.S. research on ISS to that which is needed to
support the goal of sending humans back to the Moon and to Mars. From FY1985- FY2005,
Congress appropriated approximately $35 billion for the space station program.
Space Station Freedom
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 FY19851993, Congress appropriated $11.4 billion to NASA 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. Several major redesigns were made. A 1991 redesign 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 concluded that materials
science research could not justify building the space station, and questioned how much life
sciences research could be supported. They criticized the lack of firm plans for flying a
centrifuge, considered essential to this research. NASA subsequently agreed to launch a
centrifuge, but, in September 2005, decided that it was not needed (see below).
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 1988, after three years of negotiations, Japan, Canada and nine European countries
under the aegis of the European Space Agency (ESA) agreed to be partners in the space
station program. A government-to-government Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) was
signed in September, and Memoranda of Understanding (MOUs) between NASA and its
counterpart 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.
1993 Redesign — The Clinton Administration Restructuring
In early 1993, as President Clinton took office, NASA revealed $1 billion in cost growth
on the Freedom program. The President 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 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 be ready sooner at less cost to the United States. Compared with the September
7 Alpha design, ISS was to be completed one year earlier, have 25% more usable volume,
42.5 kilowatts more electrical power, and accommodate six instead of four crew members.
In 1993, President Clinton pledged to request $10.5 billion ($2.1 billion a year) for
FY1994-FY1998. 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. (See Cost Caps
The International Space Station (ISS): 1993-Present
The International Space Station program thus began in 1993, with Russia joining the
United States, Europe, Japan, and Canada. The 1993 and subsequent agreements with Russia
established three phases of space station cooperation and the payment to Russia of $400
million, which grew to $473 million. (NASA transferred about $800 million to Russia for
space station cooperation through this and other contracts.)
During Phase I (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 raised questions about whether NASA should
leave more astronauts on Mir, but NASA decided Mir was sufficiently safe to continue the
program. (As discussed below, Mir was deorbited in 2001.) Phases II and III involve
construction of the International Space Station itself, and blend into each other. Phase II
began in 1998 and was completed in July 2001; Phase III is underway.
ISS Design, Cost, Schedule, and Lifetime
ISS is being built by a partnership among the United States, Russia, Europe, Japan, and
Canada. The 1988 Intergovernmental Agreement was renegotiated after Russia joined the
program. The new version was signed in 1998. The IGA is a treaty in all the countries
except the United States, where it is an Executive Agreement. The IGA is implemented
through Memoranda of Understanding (MOUs) between NASA and its counterpart agencies.
Brazil is not a partner in ISS, but agreed to participate through a bilateral agreement with
NASA. Boeing is the U.S. prime contractor.
NASA originally stated that ISS would be operated for 10 years after assembly was
completed, with a possibility for 5 additional years if the research was considered
worthwhile. Using the original schedule, assembly would have been completed in 2002,
with operations at least through 2012. The completion of assembly slipped to 2006, but
President Bush restructured the space station program in 2001, and it was not clear when
assembly would be “completed.” NASA briefing charts in March 2003 showed space station
operations possibly continuing until 2022. Under President Bush’s January 2004 “Vision for
Space Exploration,” however, NASA plans to complete its utilization of ISS in 2016 (though
the other partners may continue to use it after that time).
ISS segments are launched into space on U.S. or Russian launch vehicles and assembled
in orbit. The space station is composed of a multitude of modules, solar arrays to generate
electricity, remote manipulator systems, and other elements that are too numerous to describe
here. Details can be found at [http://spaceflight.nasa.gov/home/index.html]. Six major
modules are now in orbit. The first two were launched in 1998: Zarya (“Sunrise,” a Russianbuilt, U.S.-owned, module with guidance, navigation, and control systems) and Unity (a U.S.
“node” connecting other modules). Next was Zvezda (“Star,” a Russian module that serves
as the crew’s living quarters) in 2000. Destiny (a U.S. laboratory), Quest (a U.S. airlock),
and Pirs (“Pier,” a Russian docking compartment) arrived in 2001. Among the other
modules awaiting launch are laboratory modules built by Russia, Europe, and Japan, and two
more “nodes” built by Europe. (Zarya counts as a U.S. module because NASA paid Russia
to build it. Some of the European- and Japanese-built hardware counts as U.S. because they
are built under barter agreements where Europe and Japan produce hardware NASA needs
instead of paying cash to NASA for launch and other ISS-related services.) Ordinarily, the
U.S. space shuttle takes crews and cargo back and forth to ISS. The shuttle system is
currently grounded because of problems that occurred during the July 2005 launch of STS114 (see CRS Report RS21408). Russian Soyuz spacecraft are also used to take crews to and
from ISS, and Russian Progress spacecraft deliver cargo, but cannot return anything to Earth
(Progress is not designed to survive reentry into the Earth’s atmosphere). A Soyuz is always
attached to the station as a lifeboat in case of an emergency.
The schedule for launching segments and crews is called the “assembly sequence” and
has been revised many times. At the end of the Clinton Administration, the assembly
sequence showed completion of assembly (“assembly complete”) in April 2006. The most
recent assembly sequence was released after a January 2005 “Heads of Agency” meeting in
Montreal, but it does not include launch dates, only the order in which the launches will go.
It does list “Establishment of a Permanent Crew of Six (January 2009),” followed by nine
shuttle launches to assembly complete. Under the Vision, ISS construction is to be
completed by 2010, but NASA Administrator Griffin has indicated that a sufficient number
of shuttle flights may not be able to be launched in that time period. He intends to terminate
the shuttle in 2010 nonetheless, however, and reportedly is assessing other methods for
launching ISS segments.
“Expedition” crews have occupied ISS on a 4-6 month rotating basis since November
2000. Originally the crews had three members (two Russians and one American, or two
Americans and one Russian), with an expectation that crew size would grow to six or seven
once assembly was completed. Crew size is temporarily reduced to two (one American, one
Russian) while the U.S. shuttle is grounded in order to reduce resupply requirements. The
number of astronauts who can live on the space station is limited in part by how many can
be returned to Earth in an emergency by lifeboats docked to the station. Only Russian Soyuz
spacecraft are available as lifeboats. Each Soyuz can hold three people, limiting crew size
to three if only one Soyuz is attached. NASA planned to build a U.S. Crew Return Vehicle
(CRV) to provide lifeboat capabilities for at least four more crew. The Bush Administration
canceled those plans due to cost growth in the ISS program, then began a different program
(the Orbital Space Plane) that also was cancelled. In September 2005, NASA announced
that the new Crew Exploration Vehicle (CEV) it is building to implement the President’s
Vision for Space Exploration (the “Moon/Mars” program) will be designed to take crews to
and from the ISS, and to serve as a lifeboat. NASA currently hopes to have it ready by 2012.
Each Soyuz must be replaced every six months. The replacement missions are called
“taxi” flights since the crews bring a new Soyuz up to ISS and bring the old one back to
Earth. Therefore, under normal conditions, the long duration Expedition crews are regularly
visited by taxi crews, and by the space shuttle bringing up additional ISS segments or
exchanging Expedition crews. When the shuttle is unavailable, Expedition crews are taken
back and forth on the “taxi” flights.
September 1993-January 2001: The Clinton Administration.
Cost Growth. From FY1994-FY2001, the cost estimate for building ISS grew from
$17.4 billion to $24.1-26.4 billion. The $17.4 billion estimate (called its “development cost,”
“construction cost,” or “R&D cost”) covered FY1994 through completion of assembly, then
scheduled for June 2002. It did not include launch costs, operational costs after completion
of assembly, civil service costs, or other costs. NASA estimated the program’s life-cycle
cost (all costs, including funding spent prior to 1993) from FY1985-FY2012 at $72.3 billion.
In 1998, GAO estimated the life-cycle cost at $95.6 billion (GAO/NSIAD-98-147). More
recent, comparable, life-cycle estimates are not available from NASA or GAO.
Cost growth first emerged publicly in March 1996 when then-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 research intended to be conducted
aboard the space station. 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.)
One factor in the cost growth was schedule slippage related to Russia’s Zvezda module.
As insurance against further Zvezda delays, or a launch or docking failure, NASA decided
to build an “Interim Control Module” (ICM). To cover cost growth associated with the
schedule delay and 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 appropriations committees approved transferring the $200
million in FY1997, but not the FY1998 funding.
In March 1998, NASA announced that the estimate for building the space station had
grown from $17.4 billion to $21.3 billion. In April 1998, an independent task force
concluded that the space station’s cost through assembly complete could be $24.7 billion.
Mr. Goldin initially refused to endorse the $24.7 billion estimate, but by 2000, NASA’s own
estimate had grown to $24.1-$26.4 billion.
Cost Caps. The $2.1 billion per year figure the Clinton White House and Congress
agreed to spend on the space station, and NASA’s $17.4 billion estimate to build the station,
became known as “caps,” although they were not set in law. Both were exceeded in 19971998. As costs continued to rise, Congress voted to legislate 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. The act also
authorizes an additional $5 billion for development and $3.5 billion for associated shuttle
launches in case of specified contingencies. The caps do not apply to operations, research,
or crew return activities after the space station is “substantially” complete, defined as when
development costs consume 5% or less of the annual space station budget. In its FY2006
budget justification (p. EC 2-4), NASA alerted Congress that it might exceed the $25 billion
cap for ISS development during FY2005, attributing the increased costs to delays resulting
from the Columbia tragedy. NASA did exceed the cap in FY2005, having spent $25.7
billion in funds that are counted against the cap. Under the FY2007-2008 NASA
authorization act (P.L. 109-155), NASA must submit a report to Congress on how certain
factors affected ISS development costs, and the cap is repealed 30 days thereafter.
2001-Present: The George W. Bush Administration.
Cost Growth. As President Bush took office, NASA revealed substantial additional
cost growth. In 2000, NASA’s estimate of the remaining cost to build ISS was $8 billion
(FY2002 to FY2006). In January 2001, however, it announced that an additional $4.02
billion was needed. That figure grew to $4.8 billion by June, and the IMCE task force
(discussed below) said another $366 million in growth was discovered between August and
October. Those increases would have raised the cost to over $30 billion, 72% above the
1993 estimate, and $5 billion above the legislated cap. NASA explained that program
managers had underestimated the complexity of building and operating the station. The Bush
Administration signaled it supported the legislated cap, would not provide additional funds,
and NASA would have to find what it needed from within its Human Space Flight account.
“Core Complete” Configuration. In February 2001, the Bush Administration
announced it would cancel or defer some ISS hardware to stay within the cap and control
space station costs. It canceled the Propulsion Module, and “indefinitely deferred” the
Habitation Module, Node 3, and the Crew Return Vehicle (CRV). The decision truncated
construction of the space station at a stage the Administration called “core complete.” The
Administration said that “enhancements” to the station might be possible if NASA
demonstrated improved cost estimating and program management. In 2001, the space station
program office at Johnson Space Center (JSC) estimated that it would cost $8.3 billion from
FY2002-FY2006 to build the core complete configuration, described at that time as all the
U.S. hardware planned for launch through “Node 2,” plus the launch of laboratories being
built by Europe and Japan. NASA subsequently began distinguishing between “U.S. Core
Complete” (the launches through Node 2, which, prior to the Columbia tragedy, was
scheduled for February 2004) and “International Partner (IP) Core Complete” which included
the addition of European and Japanese laboratory modules (then anticipated in 2008).
The non-U.S. partners, and U.S. scientists who planned to conduct research on ISS,
expressed deep concern with the core complete configuration. A major issue was that NASA
reduced its space station research budget by 37.5% over the FY2002-FY2006 period,
necessitating a reassessment of U.S. research priorities on ISS. A July 2002 report of the
“Research Maximization and Prioritization” (ReMaP) task force, and a September 2002
National Research Council report, made recommendations on research priorities. Both were
superseded by President Bush’s January 2004 “Vision for Space Exploration,” which directs
that U.S. research on ISS be restricted only to that which supports the Vision. A new
research plan has not been released by NASA. At the time the core complete configuration
was announced, another major concern was the decision to indefinitely defer the CRV, which
subsequently was canceled. That would have limited the space station to three permanent
crew members, not seven as planned, reducing the number of researchers on board to conduct
the research program. As discussed elsewhere in this report, NASA reinstated plans for a
CRV capability in 2005.
Reviews of NASA’s Cost Estimates and Adding Funds for ISS. NASA
created the ISS Management and Cost Evaluation (IMCE) Task Force in July 2001 to review
the space station program office’s $8.3 billion cost estimate for finishing the core complete
configuration. Chaired by former Lockheed Martin executive Tom Young, IMCE
determined that the cost estimate was not credible, and NASA should make significant
management and cost estimating changes. NASA Headquarters directed the space station
program office to reassess its estimate, and had two independent groups conduct their own
estimates. A July 2002 GAO report (GAO-02-735) concluded that NASA’s focus on
managing annual budgets resulted in NASA’s failure to heed indicators of future program
In November 2002, the Bush Administration submitted an amended FY2003 budget
request that shifted $706 million into the ISS program for FY2004-2007: $660 million to
boost program reserves, and $46 million in FY2004 for “long-lead” items to preserve the
option of increasing crew size beyond three. (Congress cut $200 million from ISS in
FY2004, however.) The latter included a proposal to build an Orbital Space Plane (OSP) to
takes crews back and forth to ISS as a complement to the space shuttle.
At a December 2002 “Heads of Agency” meeting, the ISS partners agreed on a process
for selecting a final ISS configuration by December 2003. The 2003 space shuttle Columbia
tragedy delayed the process, and President Bush’s January 2004 announcement of the Vision
for Space Exploration, changed NASA’s own plans, including cancellation of the Orbital
Space Plane, and termination of the space shuttle program after ISS construction is
completed. At a January 2005 Heads of Agency meeting, the partners endorsed a final
configuration of ISS, but NASA subsequently announced changes to it. The agency now
plans to conduct only 18 (instead of 28) shuttle launches to the ISS, all before the end of
FY2010 (September 30, 2010), and has dropped plans to launch the centrifuge and its
accommodation module, and Russia’s Science Power Platform. The agency plans to meet
with the other ISS partners to discuss these changes in late 2005.
The changes to the ISS are largely due to the new direction NASA is taking in response
to the Vision for Space Exploration. Inter alia, the Vision calls for development of a Crew
Exploration Vehicle (CEV) to take astronauts to and from the Moon. It also can take them
to and from the ISS, and NASA Administrator Griffin stated at a September 19, 2005 press
conference that the CEV would be used to take crews to and from the ISS, and to serve as
a lifeboat for them. If the CEV is built as announced, it would fulfill the U.S. commitment
to build a crew return capability, and allow the ISS crew size to increase to its originally
planned complement of seven. President Bush directed that the CEV be ready by 2014; Dr.
Griffin hopes to accelerate the schedule to 2012.
The FY2005 request for the ISS program was $2.412 billion: $1.863 billion for
construction and operations, including $140 million in a new “ISS Crew/Cargo Services” line
to pay for alternatives to the shuttle for taking crew and cargo to and from ISS; and $549
million for research. Congress did not specify a funding level for the ISS in the final version
of the FY2005 VA-HUD-IA
appropriations act, which was incorporated
in the FY2005 Consolidated
Appropriations Act (H.R. 4818, P.L. 108447). Instead, it gave NASA “unrestrained
transfer authority” to shift money between
budget accounts. In a May 10, 2005
update to its FY2005 operating plan,
NASA indicated that it is shifting $160
million from the space station into the
space shuttle program for costs associated
with returning the shuttle to flight status.
The operating plan shows $1.676 billion
for ISS construction and operations,
including $98 million for ISS Crew/Cargo
Services. However, management of the
ISS Crew/Cargo Services activity, and the
$98 million, have been moved to the
Exploration Systems Mission Directorate.
The operating plan retains the $98 million
in the ISS subaccount, however. The
FY2005 total shown in the table in this
issue brief — $2.058 billion — is the sum
of $1.676 billion as shown in NASA’s
May 2005 operating plan, plus $382
million allocated for space station research
as shown in a FY2006 NASA budget chart.
For FY2006, NASA originally
requested $2.180 billion for the ISS
program: $1.857 billion for construction
and operations (including $160 million for
ISS Crew/Cargo Services), and $324
million for ISS research. In a May 10,
2005 FY2005 operating plan update,
NASA announced that it was moving the
ISS Crew/Cargo Services activity to the
Exploration Systems Mission Directorate
(ESMD). A July 15 amended budget
request also moved the FY2006 funding
for that activity (which it said was $168
million) into ESMD and commensurately
reduced the ISS construction and
operations request. NASA later also
reduced the amount it plans to spend on
ISS research to $306 million. The number
Table 1. U.S. Space Station
(in $ millions)
The numbers here reflect NASA’s figures for “the
space station program.” Over the years, what is
included in that definition has changed. The
appropriated amount may differ from actual
NASA’s FY1999 budget documents showed
$2.501 billion in the expectation Congress would
approve additional transfer requests, but it did not.
Adjusted for 0.65% rescission.
Reflects shift to full cost accounting.
Congress did not specify an appropriations level.
This figure is from NASA’s May 10, 2005 operating
plan, plus the amount to be spent on ISS research.
used in the accompanying table ($1,995 million) reflects these changes.
The FY2006 Science, State, Justice and Commerce (SSJC) appropriations act (H.R.
2862, P.L. 109-108), which includes NASA, does not specify a total for the ISS. However,
Congress cut $80 million from the ISS, including $60 million from ISS Crew/Cargo Services
(the conference report does not reflect the July budget amendment which shifted this activity
out the ISS program line). The House had cut $10 million from ISS construction and
operations, $10 million from ISS Crew/Cargo Services, and $25 million from the account
that funds research on ISS, though it did not specify that the cuts come from the ISS portion
of that account. The Senate had cut all $160 million from ISS Crew/Cargo Services.
NASA’s FY2006 funding is subject to a 0.28% across-the-board rescission in that law, and
a 1% rescission in the FY2006 Department of Defense appropriations act (P.L. 109-148).
The FY2007-2008 NASA authorization bill (P.L. 109-155) does not specify a funding
amount for the ISS, but has many ISS-related policy provisions discussed elsewhere in this
The Original Partners: Europe, Canada, and Japan
Canada, Japan, and many of the 17 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 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 (ESA), the Canadian Space Agency (CSA), the Russian space
agency (then Rosaviakosmos, now Roskosmos), and the Japanese Science and Technology
Agency. The IGA is a treaty in all the countries except the United States (where it is an
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” or Canadarm 2) was launched in
April 2001; another part, the Special Purpose Dextrous Manipulator, is awaiting launch.
ESA is building a laboratory module called Columbus, and an Automated Transfer
Vehicle (ATV) to take cargo to ISS. The ATV will be launched on Europe’s Ariane launch
vehicle. The first ATV launch is expected in 2007. The major contributors to Columbus are
Germany, France, and Italy. Budgetary difficulties over the years led ESA to cancel other
hardware it was planning. ESA also is building a cupola (a windowed dome) and two of the
three “nodes” (Node 2 and Node 3) for NASA in exchange for NASA launches of Europe’s
module and other services. Node 2, Columbus, and the cupola are awaiting launch. NASA
had canceled plans for Node 3, but now has revived them. NASA also has a bilateral
agreement with Italy under which Italy built three “mini-pressurized logistics modules”
(MPLMs). Already in use, they are launched via the shuttle, attached to ISS while cargo is
transferred to the station, filled with refuse or other unwanted material, placed back into the
shuttle’s cargo bay, and returned to Earth.
Japan is building the Japanese Experiment Module, named Kibo (Hope). One part is
pressurized and the other is not (called the “back porch,” it will be exposed to space for
experiments requiring those conditions). The pressurized section is awaiting launch; the
unpressurized section is in development. Japan also was building a centrifuge and a
Centrifuge Accommodation Module (“CAM”) for NASA in exchange for shuttle flights to
launch Kibo, but NASA decided in September 2005 that it no longer needs them. NASA
plans to meet with Japan and the other partners in late 2005 to discuss this and other matters.
CSA reported in February 2004 that Canada’s total ISS spending is expected to be $1.4
billion (Canadian), of which $1.3 billion (Canadian) was spent by that time. ESA reported in
March 2004 that its estimated funding for ISS is 5.1 billion Euros, of which 4.1 billion Euros
were spent as of the end of 2003. (In March 2004, 1 Canadian dollar = 0.75 U.S. dollar and
1 Euro = 1.2 U.S. dollars.) In February 2004, the Japanese space agency reported that Japan
expects to spend $4.8 billion on ISS, of which $4 billion was spent by the end of March 2003.
A bilateral agreement was signed with Brazil in October 1997 for Brazil to provide
payload and logistics hardware. Brazil is restructuring its agreement in light of financial
constraints, however. The level of its funding contribution is unclear.
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, Mir, was a modular space station built and operated
between 1986 and 2001. Crews were ferried back and forth to Mir using Soyuz spacecraft.
Crews occupied Mir from 1986-2000. For almost 10 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
they remained for 5-6 months and then were replaced by a new crew. From 1995-1998, seven
Americans participated in long duration (up to six month) 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.
Risks and Benefits of Russian Participation
For many years, controversy over the ISS program focused on Russia’s participation in
the program. Among the issues were the extent to which successful completion of ISS is
dependent on Russia, Russia’s financial ability to meet its commitments, and whether the
United States should provide funding to Russia if it proliferates missile technology to certain
countries. While there is no exchange of funds among the other ISS partners, the United
States (and other partners) have provided funding to Russia. By 1998, the United States had
paid approximately $800 million to Russia for space station cooperation.
Following the Clinton Administration’s decision to bring Russia into the program,
Congress stated that Russian participation “should enhance and not enable” the space station
(H.Rept. 103-273, to accompany H.R. 2491, the FY1994 VA-HUD-IA appropriations act,
P.L. 103-124). The current design, however, can only be viewed as being “enabled” by
Russian participation. 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). When the shuttle is unavailable, U.S. access to ISS is completely dependent on
Russia, which ferries crews back and forth on the Soyuz spacecraft and takes cargo to ISS on
Progress spacecraft. President Bush’s exploration initiative would increase U.S. dependence
on Russia vis a vis the space station (see Key Issues for Congress below).
Russia’s financial ability to meet its commitments is an ongoing issue. The launch of
Zvezda, the first module Russia had to pay for itself, was more than two years late. (Zarya
was built by Russia, but NASA paid for it.) Since Zvezda’s launch in 2000, Russia has met
its commitments to launch Soyuz and Progress spacecraft, but is reassessing what other
modules and hardware it will build at its own expense. Russian space agency officials have
repeatedly expressed concern about whether they can provide the needed number of Soyuz
and Progress spacecraft because of budget constraints.
Clinton Administration and NASA officials asserted repeatedly that Russian
participation in the space station program would accelerate the schedule by two years and
reduce U.S. costs by $4 billion. That 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. GAO concluded (GAO/NSIAD
94-248) that Russian participation would cost NASA $1.8 billion, essentially negating the $2
billion in expected savings. In 1998, a NASA official 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,
historic symbolism, and potential long term significance of the two former Cold War
adversaries working together in space.
One benefit is that the space station can be serviced with Russian as well as American
spacecraft, providing redundancy if either side must ground its fleet due to an accident, for
example. This is an important advantage while the U.S. space shuttle is grounded. Russia
is providing both crew and cargo flights to the space station, enabling it to continue operation
without the shuttle.
ISS and U.S. Nonproliferation Objectives, Including the Iran
Nonproliferation Act (INA)
The overall relationship between the United States and Russia is another factor in the ISS
equation, including Russian adherence to U.S. nonproliferation objectives. Getting Russia
to adhere to the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), designed to stem proliferation
of ballistic missile technology, appears to have been a primary motivation behind the Clinton
Administration’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. The Clinton Administration sanctioned 10 Russian entities for providing technology to
Iran. Neither the Russian space agency nor any major Russian ISS contractors or
subcontractors were among those sanctioned.
On March 14, 2000, President Clinton signed into law the Iran Nonproliferation Act
(INA), P.L. 106-178. As originally enacted, the law, inter alia, prohibited NASA from
making “extraordinary payments” related to ISS after January 1, 1999, in cash or in kind, to
Russia unless Russia took the necessary steps to prevent the transfer of weapons of mass
destruction and missile systems to Iran, and the President made a determination that neither
the Russian space agency nor any entity reporting to it had made such transfers for at least one
year prior to such determination. Exceptions were 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 did not go to an entity that may have proliferated to Iran and the United
States receives goods or services of commensurate value; and hardware needed to dock the
U.S. Interim Control Module (ICM, discussed earlier). Certain notifications were required
if the exceptions were utilized. NASA sought permission to spend $35 million on Russia
goods and services, of which $14 million was for the ICM docking hardware. President
Clinton provided Congress with a required notification with regard to that $14 million on June
29, 2000. Ultimately, only $11 million was needed for the ICM hardware, leaving $24
million that NASA wanted to spend. No determination as required by the act was forthcoming
from the President. NASA considered using the crew safety exception, but at a House
International Relations Committee hearing on October 12, 2000, some committee Members
sharply criticized NASA’s legal interpretation of that exception, particularly NASA’s broad
interpretation of the word “imminent.”
Thus, the INA had important ramifications for whether NASA could keep its astronauts
on ISS for long duration missions after April 2006, or at all after 2010 if the shuttle is
terminated as planned (see Key Issues for Congress, below). The Bush Administration
submitted a proposal to Congress on July 12, 2005, to modify the INA. The amendment
would have prohibited payments only for goods or services that Russia had previously agreed
to provide at no cost. On September 21, 2005, the Senate passed S. 1713 (Lugar) which
would have allowed NASA to pay Russia, but only through January 1, 2012. The House
passed an amended version on October 26 that, inter alia, clarifies that the goods or services
must be delivered, as well as paid for, by January 1, 2012. (The House version makes other
changes as well that are outside the scope of this report to discuss.) The Senate agreed to the
House-passed version on November 8. The bill was signed into law on November 22, 2005.
NASA now may pay Russia for ISS-related goods and services for the next several years. See
CRS Report RS22270 for more information. If the CEV is not available by then, the issue
Key Issues For Congress
Maintaining ISS Operations While the Shuttle Is Grounded
The grounding of the space shuttle system following the Columbia accident suspended
assembly of ISS, temporarily reduced the size of Expedition crews from three to two, and
complicated efforts to keep the crews supplied with consumables, scientific experiments, and
spare parts for equipment that needs repair. NASA launched the shuttle on its first Return to
Flight mission, STS-114, on July 26, 2005 (see CRS Report RS21408). STS-114 landed
successfully on August 9, after spending much of its mission docked with ISS. Another
shuttle launch was scheduled for September, but a problem occurred during STS-114’s launch
and NASA has again grounded the fleet. The next shuttle mission is not expected until at
least May 2006.
In the absence of the shuttle, ISS crews are taken to and from ISS using Russian Soyuz
spacecraft on the same six-month schedule already planned, and Russian Progress spacecraft
resupply the crew. Russia is obligated to provide crew return for three people throughout the
lifetime of ISS. Currently, they accomplish that with two Soyuzes per year (each lasts only
six months once docked to ISS). Russia also is obligated to provide a certain number of
Progress spacecraft, but has cautioned that funding for Soyuz and Progress is not assured.
The Russians operated seven of their own space stations (see above) using only Soyuz
and Progress spacecraft, so it is possible to keep ISS operating without the shuttle as long as
Russia is willing to provide them. However, operation of ISS was premised on the
availability of the cargo-carrying capacity of the space shuttle. Keeping ISS operating
without the shuttle is challenging. For example, the Expedition 10 crew was required to
reduce its food intake because of shortages aboard the station in late 2004. Stocks were
resupplied by a Progress that reached ISS late that December, but U.S. and Russian space
station personnel made clear that if the Progress had failed to dock, the crew would have had
to return home prematurely because of the food situation. ISS crews also need to repair faulty
equipment, but replacement parts may not fit aboard Progress or Soyuz. NASA’s decision
to again ground the shuttle fleet may lead to questions about whether to keep a crew aboard
ISS. In addition to questions about keeping the crews well supplied, with a two-person crew,
less time may be available for scientific research, and without the shuttle, fewer experiments
can be taken to ISS. If little scientific research can be accomplished, some may question the
wisdom of asking astronauts and cosmonauts to accept the risks inherent in human spaceflight
simply to maintain ISS systems. Conversely, how long ISS could continue to function with
no one aboard is unknown. Progress spacecraft could dock with ISS automatically to reboost
it and keep it at the proper altitude, but a major system malfunction that could not be remedied
by ground-based controllers could imperil the station.
Impact of President Bush’s Vision for Space Exploration, Including
a Potential Gap in U.S. Human Access to Space
President Bush’s January 2004 Vision for Space Exploration directs NASA to focus its
activities on returning humans to the Moon by 2020, and someday sending them to Mars and
world beyond. The Vision affects the ISS program in several ways. First, the President
directed that the shuttle be retired in 2010, and NASA officials indicated that they would
complete their use of the ISS in 2016. By terminating the shuttle and NASA utilization of the
ISS, that funding (approximately $6 billion per year) could be reallocated to achieving other
aspects of the Vision. The President also directed that the U.S. research on ISS be restricted
to research needed to support the Vision, instead of the broadly-based research program that
was planned (see ISS Utilization below).
The extent to which ISS can be utilized without the space shuttle is not clear. Soyuz
spacecraft can take crews back and forth, but the shuttle’s cargo capacity — both for taking
cargo to ISS, and back to Earth (e.g. the results of scientific experiments, or hardware that
needs repair) — could be expensive to replicate. No other partner has a spacecraft able to
bring material back to Earth today. Europe reportedly is considering adding a return capsule
to its Automated Transfer Vehicle (a robotic cargo spacecraft that is expected to make its first
flight in 2007). NASA is exploring the possibility of U.S. commercial companies providing
launch and/or return services through the ISS Crew/Cargo activity.
Another issue is the gap that is expected to occur in NASA’s ability to launch astronauts
between when the shuttle program in terminated (2010), and the availability of the new CEV
(now anticipated in 2012). During that gap, NASA will have to rely on Russia for
transporting U.S. astronauts to and from the ISS. By amending the Iran Nonproliferation Act
(discussed earlier), Congress and the White House have provided NASA with the authority
to pay Russia for such services, but questions remain about how much Russia will charge for
the services, and how much money NASA will have available to pay for them. Also, the INA
amendment permits NASA to purchase Russian goods and services for the ISS only through
January 1, 2012 (and they must be provided by that date as well). If the CEV schedule slips
past that date, the INA may need to be further amended if the United States wants to ensure
U.S. access to the ISS.
Scientific research is often cited as a major reason for building the ISS. U.S. researchers
were to have access to two U.S. laboratories (Destiny, and the Centrifuge Accommodation
Module, built for NASA by Japan under a barter agreement). In addition, they would have
the use of about 50% of the research capabilities on Europe’s Columbus and Japan’s Kibo
modules. Over the years, however, the U.S. ISS-based research program has been cut back.
As discussed earlier in this report, cuts to space station scientific research were made in the
late 1990s and in 2002 because of rising costs to build the ISS. In 2004, President Bush
further limited the scope of research that U.S. scientists could conduct aboard the ISS to that
specifically needed to support his Moon/Mars program, instead of the broadly based research
program that was planned.
In August 2004, NASA’s Office of Biological and Physical Research (OBPR), which
then was responsible for funding and managing ISS-based research, was merged with the
Office of Exploration Systems to form the Exploration Systems Mission Directorate (ESMD).
At the same time, NASA’s space science and earth science programs were merged together
in the Science Mission Directorate (SMD). NASA Administrator Griffin often states that he
will not cut funds for NASA’s science and aeronautics activities in order to pay for the
Moon/Mars Vision, but at a November 3, 2005 House Science Committee hearing, clarified
that he meant only those programs in SMD, not the ISS scientific research program in ESMD.
He is cutting funds for ISS research in order to pay for accelerating the development of the
CEV. Also, in a September 30, 2005 update to NASA’s FY2005 operating plan, he notified
Congress that he was terminating the centrifuge and its Centrifuge Accommodation Module
(CAM). That was to be the major facility for conducting fundamental biological research on
A December 2005 report from the Space Studies Board of the National Research
Council, Review of NASA Plans for the International Space Station, sharply criticized
NASA’s revised ISS research plan. An editorial in the November 25, 2005 issue of Science
lamented the cutbacks in ISS research, and cautioned that NASA was cutting the very research
needed to ensure the health and safety of astronauts who would someday journey to Mars.
The FY2007-2008 NASA authorization act (S. 1281, P.L. 109-155) directs that,
beginning in FY2006, 15% of budgeted ISS research funds be allocated to “ground-based,
free-flyer, and ISS life and microgravity science research that is not directly related” to the
P.L. 109-108, H.R. 2862. FY2006 Science, State, Justice, Commerce Appropriations
Act (includes NASA). Reported from House Appropriations Committee June 10, 2005
(H.Rept. 109-118); passed House June 16. Reported from Senate Appropriations Committee
June 23 (S.Rept. 109-88); passed Senate September 15, 2005. Conference report (H.Rept.
109-272) passed House November 9, passed Senate November 16. Signed into law November
P.L. 109-112, S. 1713. Amends the Iran Nonproliferation Act to allow NASA to
purchase ISS-related services from Russia through January 1, 2012. Discharged from Senate
Foreign Relations Committee and passed Senate September 21. Passed House, amended,
October 26, 2005. Senate agreed with House-amended version, November 8. Signed into law
November 22, 2005.
P.L. 109-155, S. 1281. FY2007-2008 NASA authorization bill. H.R. 3070 would have
authorized NASA funding for FY2006-2007; reported by the House Science Committee July
18 (H.Rept. 109-173), passed House July 22, 2005. S. 1281, as originally passed, authorized
NASA funding for FY2006-2010; reported by Senate Commerce Committee July 26 (S.Rept.
109-108), passed Senate September 28, 2005. Conference report (H.Rept. 109-354), which
covers FY2007-2008, passed House December 17, Senate December 21, 2005. Signed into
law December 30, 2005.