Station's contractor programme also to be rationalised in bid to slash ISS monthly costs

Japan is considering slashing its annual International Space Station (ISS) budget to $110 million from $330 million as a result of NASA cuts to the ISS budget which have forced a reduction in crew at the station. This may lead to Japan cancelling its Kibo experiment module's logistics carrier and H2A-launched transfer vehicles.

NASA has axed the US habitation module and the crew return vehicle for the ISS, resulting in the station's crew being reduced to three from the planned seven.

As a result of the cuts, Japan's level of science work at the station will be reduced from just under 15h 30min a week to just over 2h 30min. Japan is not alone, with other international ISS partners, including the European Space Agency, being hit equally hard.

NASA is also rationalising its ISS contractor programme to control costs and is switching the focus of the project from design to construction and operations. This follows the recommendations of last year's Young Committee investigation into the programme's $4.8 billion cost overrun.

The number of contractors reporting to NASA will be reduced from 19 to seven in 2004, by which time six other contractors will have completed their work on the Boeing-led ISS programme. Monthly costs of the station are expected to be cut from $150 million to $100 million by 2004, possibly resulting in the loss of more than 1,000 ISS-related jobs, industry observers say.

The ISS scientific community recently wrote to NASA administrator Sean O'Keefe, expressing concern that the full potential from science on board the orbital space base will not be realised as a result of budget cuts.

Meanwhile, NASA says that the failure of one of four control moment gyroscopes (CMGs) on the ISS may have been caused by a lack of lubrication. A replacement CMG - one of four on the ISS - will be launched next January and the malfunctioning gyro returned on that Space Shuttle mission.


Source: Flight International