NASA is asking its international partners if they are prepared to provide the elements of the International Space Station (ISS) that the US agency is being forced to cut from the programme to overcome a $4 billion overrun.

In order to stay within the $25 billion budget cap, as instructed by the Bush Administration, NASA is to stop work on the Propulsion Module, Habitation Module and Crew Return Vehicle (CRV). The new plan puts priority on completing the US Core, accommodating international partner elements and conducting research in space.

But cancellation of the CRV and Habitation Module means the ISS crew cannot be increased from three to the seven needed to conduct full research operations. As a result, NASA has asked its partners if they are prepared to provide extra resources to restore the seven-person crew and research capacity by addressing the shortfall in habitation and crew return capability.

Major partners include Japan, Russia, Canada and various European countries. Italy has shown interest in supplying the habitation module and France the crew return vehicle. NASA plans to continue work on the X-38 CRV technology demonstrator, in which Dassault is involved. A planned X-38 space test is under review, however.

NASA administrator Dan Goldin has told Congress that the budget overruns are a result of the true cost of permanently manned operations becoming apparent as the ISS became operational.

Source: Flight International