NASA’s Office of Inspector General has reviewed agency efforts to maximize International Space Station use for human exploration missions and examined the challenges of managing operations in the orbiting laboratory.
The OIG said in a report published Monday it found that the agency plans utilize ISS as part of efforts to address technology gaps and health risks associated with long-duration manned spaceflight.
NASA projected, as of February, that research for at least six of 20 human health risks and four of 40 technology gaps that require ISS use for testing cannot be completed by the end of fiscal year 2024, when funding allocation for the space station is scheduled to stop, as per a proposal in President Trump’s FY 2019 budget request.
To address the problem, the OIG said the agency may consider extending ISS operations past 2024, explore non-space-based testing methods or venture into riskier future crewed deep space missions.
The office recommended that NASA develop a contingency plan for each human health risk that cannot not be resolved before 2024. The same goes for exploration-enabling technology demonstrations that cannot not be fully evaluated by that time.
NASA should also study options to acquire supplemental emergency deorbit propellant support from U.S. commercial vehicles, the OIG added.