[CRS Issue Brief for Congress]

93017: Space Stations

Updated December 12, 1996

Marcia S. Smith
Science Policy Research Division

CONTENTS

SUMMARY

MOST RECENT DEVELOPMENTS

BACKGROUND AND ANALYSIS

Introduction
Skylab
Reagan and Bush Administration Positions
Clinton Administration Position
The International Space Station (ISS) Program
Space Station Freedom: 1984-1993
1993 Redesign
Current Program
The Three Phases of U.S.-Russian Cooperation
ISS Schedule and Design
Russia's Role: "Enhancing" Versus "Enabling"
Risks and Benefits of Russian Participation
Congressional Action
102nd Congress
103rd Congress
104th Congress
International Partners
The Original Partners: Europe, Canada and Japan
Russia
Issues For Congressional Consideration
Rationale
Cost and Cost Effectiveness
Jobs
Credibility of the Redesign Process and Technical Challenges
International Commitments
Uniting with the Russians

LEGISLATION


SUMMARY

Congress continues to debate NASA's plan to build a permanently occupied space station. Controversial since its inception in 1984, the space station, called Freedom until 1993, was redesigned several times. Often referred to as International Space Station Alpha from 1993-1995, NASA currently calls it simply the International Space Station (ISS).

In 1993, President Clinton directed NASA to redesign Freedom because of cost overruns and high expected operating expenses. Later that year he merged the U.S.-led international space station with Russia's program. Russia is currently operating its 7th space station, Mir. The first step (1994-1998) in the cooperative program is joint flights of Russians on the U.S. space shuttle and Americans on Mir. Next (1997-1998), a new U.S.-Russian space station, ISS, would be built. ISS would then evolve (1998-2002) into a multi-national facility including European, Canadian and Japanese components originally planned for Freedom. The facility then would be operated for 10 years (2002-2012). Congress has supported the space station, but concerns about cost and other issues exist. Fifteen attempts to terminate it in NASA funding bills have been defeated (5 in the 104th Congress, 5 in the 103rd, and 5 in the 102nd). Three other attempts in broader legislation in the 103rd Congress also were defeated.

In 1988, the United States signed an Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) with Europe, Japan, and Canada to build the space station jointly. Those partners plan to provide hardware and systems costing them at least $9 billion. The original partners, dismayed at the frequent redesigns of the space station and the sudden U.S. decision to involve Russia, finally agreed to invite Russia to join. A revised IGA is being negotiated. An interim Memorandum of Understanding between NASA and the Russian Space Agency (RSA) was signed in June 1994, along with a $400 million contract (subsequently increased to $482 million). NASA pays this money to RSA for space station cooperation (there are no cash payments to the other partners). Russia is supposed to pay for the rest of its contributions, which RSA says will cost $3.5 billion.

NASA requested and received $2.149 billion for the space station for FY1997: $1.8 billion in the space station line item, the rest in other accounts. Separately, NASA requested and received $100 million as payment to Russia for space station cooperation and $31.2 million for the superlightweight tank. NASA estimates its portion of the station will cost $17.4 billion to build (FY1994-2002), not including launch. Operational costs are estimated at $13 billion for 10 years. If all costs NASA identifies as "space station" are included, from the beginning of the program (FY19-85) through the end of operations (FY20-12), NASA's estimate (made in 1993) is $72.3 billion for the U.S. portion. GAO said in 1995 that the total is $94 billion.

NASA estimates the workforce on the space station program as 13,000 direct and indirect jobs (excluding civil servants). Using a 2.5 economic multiplier, this equates to 45,500 total jobs.

Questions about the program include why a space station is needed, why it is needed now, what scientific research can be conducted there, how many jobs are involved, the credibility of NASA's current program plan, and the degree to which it is dependent on Russian participation.


MOST RECENT DEVELOPMENTS

In early December, NASA announced that Russia's Service Module -- a critical element of the space station scheduled for launch in April 1998 -- would be 8 months late. NASA is assessing options for how to cope with this delay. Concerns about Russia's ability to fulfill its commitments to the program currently dominate the space station policy debate. How far the U.S. government is willing to go to keep Russia as a partner in the program is the key question.


BACKGROUND AND ANALYSIS

Introduction

Skylab

NASA has launched one space station, Skylab, to which three crews were sent in 1973-74, staying 28, 59, and 84 days, respectively. Over 100 experiments were conducted in the areas of astronomy, space physics, materials processing in space (MPS), and biomedical research. Skylab reentered the 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, the Space Task Group, chaired by Vice President Agnew, recommended a permanent space station and a reusable space transportation system to service it as the core of NASA's programs in the 1970s and 1980s. Budget constraints forced NASA to choose to build the space transportation system first -- the space shuttle. The shuttle made its first flight in 1981 and a year later was declared operational. NASA was then ready to initiate the permanently occupied space station program.

Reagan and Bush Administration Positions

In his January 25, 1984, State of the Union address, former President Reagan directed NASA to develop a permanently occupied space station within a decade and to invite other countries to participate in the project. In 1988, the space station was named Freedom. On July 20, 1989, the 20th anniversary of the first Apollo landing on the Moon, former President 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 program, the Space Exploration Initiative (SEI), was cancelled by Congress because of budget constraints.

Clinton Administration Position

The Clinton Administration has been strongly supportive of the space station program, and dramatically changed its character in 1993 by deciding to add Russia as a partner to this already international (U.S., Europe, Japan, Canada) endeavor.

On February 18, 1993, President Clinton had ordered that the space station be redesigned to make it more cost effective, citing cost overruns and large expected operating costs. Following a 3-month redesign process, on June 17 President Clinton chose to build a modular space station based on the previous design (Freedom) and agreed to spend $10.5 billion over 5 years (FY1994-1998) on the new design, tentatively called International Space Station (ISS). A much more fundamental change, however, was the President's September decision to add Russia as a partner in the program, making 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.

Meetings between Vice President Gore and Russian Prime Minister Chernomyrdin beginning in September 1993 resulted in agreements setting the stage for building a joint space station. They provide mostly for the initial phases of space cooperation, primarily NASA's use of the existing Russian space station Mir. International agreements for a U.S.-Russian space station ("Phase II"), and the final version ("Phase III") that includes Europe, Canada and Japan, are still being negotiated.

The International Space Station (ISS) Program

NASA's space station program began in 1984 (FY1985). In 1988, the program 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 does not have a formal name yet. It is simply referred to as the "International Space Station" (ISS).

Space Station Freedom: 1984-1993

NASA spent $11.4 billion on the Freedom program from FY1985-1993 ($9 billion on research and development, the rest on scientific experiments and civil service salaries). Most of the funding went for designing and redesigning the program over those years; little hardware was built and none was launched. Major redesigns were made in 1986, first in response to cost issues and user requirements and later in the wake of the space shuttle Challenger tragedy; in 1987 due to rising costs, which led NASA to split the program into two phases, the second of which ultimately disappeared; in 1989 due to rising costs and expected future budget constraints; and in 1990-1991 due to congressional concerns over rising costs, higher than expected requirements for astronauts to perform extravehicular activity (EVA, or spacewalks) to assemble and maintain the station, and other issues.

The 1991 restructuring evoked concerns in the scientific community about the amount of science that could be conducted on the scaled-down space station. The plan was reviewed by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) and the Space Studies Board (SSB) of the National Research Council (part of the National Academy of Sciences). They both asserted that materials science research could not justify building the space station, and questioned how much life sciences research could be supported, criticizing the lack of firm plans for flying a centrifuge, considered essential to this type of research. NASA subsequently asserted it would launch a 2.5 meter centrifuge on the first flight after permanent occupancy.

In 1988, after 3 years of negotiations, Japan, Canada and 9 European countries under the aegis of the European Space Agency (ESA) agreed to be partners in the space station program. An Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) on a government-to- government level was signed in September, and Memoranda of Understanding (MOUs) between NASA and the other relevant space agencies were signed then or in 1989 (see International Partners). The partners agreed to provide hardware for the space station at their own expense, a total of $8 billion at the time.

Cost estimates for Freedom varied widely depending on when they were made and what was included. Early in 1993, NASA's estimate was $90 billion: $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.

1993 Redesign

As noted, in 1993 President Clinton ordered NASA to redesign the space station again to reduce costs (including reducing the operational period from 30 to 10 years). The White House gave three cost options -- $5 billion, $7 billion or $9 billion over the next 5 years. NASA identified three redesign possibilities, but it soon became clear none could be built for $9 billion. President Clinton eventually chose a combination of two of the options. After another 90-day study, a design called Alpha emerged on September 7 with milestones that were about 2 years later than if Freedom had continued, and a cost of $19.4 billion excluding shuttle launch costs, civil service salaries, operational costs, and the $11.4 billion "sunk costs" in Freedom. The White House asserted that compared with Freedom, this version would save $18 billion over the life of the program and more than $4 billion from FY1994-1998. The design would have used certain Russian hardware bought from Russia under contract, but Russia was not envisioned as a partner.

Five days earlier, however, the White House revealed it had reached preliminary agreement with Russia to build a joint Russian/American space station. Now called the International Space Station (ISS), it superseded the September 7 Alpha design and is the "current program" described in the next section. By adding Russia to the program, NASA asserted that a more capable space station would be ready sooner and at less cost to the United States. Compared with the September 7 Alpha design, ISS was to be completed 1 year earlier, have 25% more usable volume, 42.5 kilowatts more electrical power, accommodate 6 instead of 4 crew members, and have more experimental racks in the zone of the best microgravity conditions for scientific research. ISS will be placed in an orbit at an orbital inclination of 51.6o, the same as that used by Russia for its space stations, rather than the 28.8o degree orbit planned for the September 7 Alpha design. The space shuttle can take 12,000 pounds less payload to the 51.6o orbit. NASA must develop a lighter version of the shuttle's external tank, called the "super lightweight" tank, that will save 8,000 pounds. Other modifications to the shuttle system will account for the rest of the difference.

In June 1993, the President pledged to request $10.5 billion ($2.1 billion a year) for FY1994-1998. While this appears to give level funding for the space station compared with FY1993, the FY1993 figure is only for station development. Beginning in FY1994, other space station costs (scientific experiments and facilities, e.g.) were included, so the amount available for station development was about $200 million less. In FY1996, however, NASA requested and Congress granted authority to transfer money from the space station science accounts into construction.

The Freedom program was criticized for its complex management structure. As part of the 1993 redesign, NASA simplified it so that a single company, Boeing, is the prime contractor, with McDonnell Douglas and Rockwell as subcontractors. (Boeing recently announced that it would buy Rockwell's space and defense business.) NASA's Johnson Space Center (JSC) near Houston, TX was designated the "host" center for the program in 1993. An integrated product team management approach is used where each "product" is managed by a team of government, contractor and international partner personnel. In a major NASA management reorganization in early 1996 intended to shift program responsibilities out of NASA Headquarters and to the various NASA field centers, JSC was named "lead" center and given "all program implementation responsibilities" for space station.

Current Program

On September 2, 1993, the White House announced that preliminary agreement had been reached to merge the Russian and American space station programs. This program, the International Space Station (ISS), is the one currently being built. NASA says it will cost $17.4 billion for FY1994-2002 ($206 million was carried over from the Freedom program, for a total program cost through FY2002 of $17.6 billion). NASA said in 1993 that the total space station program cost from FY1985-FY2002, including sunk costs in the earlier Freedom design, launch costs, etc., is $72.3 billion. GAO said in 1995 that it is $94 billion (GAO/NSIAD-95-163).

The September 2 announcement followed 2 days of meetings between Vice President Gore and Russian Prime Minister Chernomyrdin in Washington, D.C. On December 16, 1993, a second Gore-Chernomyrdin meeting was held (in Moscow) where a letter contract was signed to bring Russia into the space station program. A third meeting was held June 22-23, 1994 (in Washington, D.C.) where a "definitized" version of the contract was signed, along with an interim memorandum of understanding between NASA and the Russian space agency making Russia a full-fledged partner. At the July 1996 Gore-Chernomyrdin semi-annual meeting, the two sides reached "ad referendum" agreement on the MOU, but it has not yet been finalized.

These agreements established three phases of cooperation (see below) and the payment to Russia, originally, of $400 million ($100 million per year for FY1994-1997). The money comes from the NASA budget, but not the space station budget. Of that $400 million, $335 million is for Phase I (using Russia's existing space station, Mir), and $65 million for "selected Phase II" activities (to begin building ISS).

In 1996, NASA increased from $400 million to $472 million the amount of money it will pay Russia (there are no cash payments to the other partners). Russia decided it wanted to keep its own Mir space station operating until at least the year 2000 instead of terminating operations once ISS construction begins. NASA agreed to help Russia do this and added two U.S. shuttle flights to Mir in 1998 to take up supplies, and to keep more U.S. astronauts aboard Mir. These changes will cost NASA $158 million ($118 million to be spent here, and $40 million to be paid to Russia). NASA also agreed to pay Russia $42 million to modify its Soyuz spacecraft (used to take crews to and from space) to accommodate taller and shorter astronauts; currently Soyuz cannot accommodate nearly half the members of the NASA astronaut corps. In return, Russia agreed to meet the existing schedule for delivering both the Service Module and the FGB module for ISS, and build a cargo version of the FGB to take fuel to the ISS. (Subsequently, Russia has admitted it cannot deliver the Service Module on time, and it the cargo version of the FGB also has been delayed.)

Except for what is specified in the $472 million contract and a separate $190 million Boeing-Khrunichev contract for the FGB module, all technical and cost details of what the Russians will provide for ISS are still being negotiated. They will be part of the final Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), and the revised Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA), among all the partners now under negotiation.

The Three Phases of U.S.-Russian Cooperation. Phase I (1994- 1998) involves joint activities using the U.S. space shuttle and the existing Russian space station Mir. This phase builds upon a 1992 agreement to launch cosmonauts on the shuttle and astronauts to Mir, and a shuttle-Mir docking in 1995. These activities were expanded in 1993 to include seven shuttle flights to Mir through 1997 with U.S. astronauts remaining on board for a total of 24 months. In January 1996, Phase I was extended to 1998 with two more shuttle flights that year and additional U.S. crew time on Mir. Russian cosmonauts flew on a U.S. space shuttle in February 1994 and February 1995. During the latter mission, the shuttle rendezvoused (but did not dock) with Mir. An American astronaut, Norman Thagard, was aboard Mir from March to July 1995 (the flight that had been agreed to in 1992). The first of a series of shuttle- Mir dockings occurred on June 29, 1995 and returned him and his two Russian crewmates to Earth a few days later, while delivering a replacement crew to Mir (two Russians). Other shuttle-Mir dockings and Americans aboard Mir are discussed in the International Partners: Russia section. Phase II (1997-1998) involves building a bilateral U.S.-Russian space station that can be permanently occupied by three astronauts in 1998. Phase III (1998-2002) expands the Phase II space station into a multi-national facility by adding the European, Japanese and Canadian components that had been envisioned for Freedom, as well as Russian research modules.

ISS Schedule and Design. The space station will be taken into orbit in segments and assembled there. Assembly is scheduled to begin in November 1997 and was supposed to be completed in June 2002, but that has slipped to "late 2002 or early 2003." The most recent version of the assembly sequence (September 1996) shows 42 American or Russian launches to take all the necessary pieces and equipment into space. The U.S. space shuttle will used for 30 or 31 launches (one launch is still to be determined). The remainder use Russian launch vehicles. The most important change from the previous assembly sequence (June 1995) is the slip in the date for completion of assembly. Two launches have slipped past June 2002: the centrifuge, and Europe's Columbus module. NASA now calls June 2002 the "U.S. assembly complete" date, though that does not hide the fact that "completion" has been delayed, with commensurate implications for program cost.

In addition to the 42 launches in the assembly sequence, 32 flights are needed to bring crews to the station and to reboost its orbit periodically to compensate for atmospheric drag. NASA estimates 9 more crew flights (in addition to one counted as part of the assembly sequence), and 23 reboost flights. This means a total of 74 launches to assemble the station. All the crew and reboost flights use Russian spacecraft and launch vehicles. Decisions are pending on what Russian spacecraft will be used for the reboost flights. Some version of Russia's Progress spacecraft, used today to reboost Mir, is expected to be used. NASA and Russia also agreed in 1996 that Russia would build a cargo version of the FGB module, called a Logistics Transfer Vehicle (LTV), to provide reboost and "roll control," a function necessary to keep the station properly oriented. Roll control was to be performed by Russia's Science Power Platform (SPP) during the early part of the assembly period; U.S. control moment gyros, or CMGs, will perform this function once they are launched, but the Russian system still will be needed for periods when the CMGs are off-line. Russia has delayed the SPP, however, so the LTV is now supposed to fill that function until the SPP is ready. NASA is concerned whether the LTV itself will be available on schedule. Options for how to provide roll control if the LTV is not ready are being assessed. The LTV's availability also will impact the total number of reboost flights that are needed.

NASA refers to two stages in space station occupancy: "3-person permanent international human presence capability" in 1998, and "6-person permanent international human presence capability" in June 2002. The distinction signifies the number of Soyuz spacecraft that can be docked with the station. Soyuz will be used as an emergency escape vehicle during the assembly phase. Since each Soyuz can accommodate three people, while one is docked, only three people can be aboard the station. When two are docked, 6 people can be aboard. NASA is contemplating building a larger Crew Transfer Vehicle for launch in 2002. Able to hold 4 people, it would increase to 7 the number of people who could be aboard the space station. June 2002 had been identified as the "assembly complete" date since this program began in 1993. Now the last launch is listed as "late 2002 or early 2003." NASA now shows June 2002 as the "U.S. assembly complete" date even though at that point the centrifuge will not be in orbit, nor Europe's Columbus module.

Astronauts performing spacewalks (or "extravehicular activity"--EVA) need to help assemble the segments in space. In May 1996, NASA estimated the number of hours of spacewalks at 1104 hours (704 hours of U.S. EVAs, plus 400 hours of Russian EVAs). This was a sharp increase from NASA's February 1995 estimate of 888 hours (648 hours of U.S. EVAs plus 240 hours of Russian EVAs) during from November 1997 to June 2002. A year earlier, the estimate had been 434 hours, with 70-80 hours identified for elimination. Instead the estimate grew and NASA expects it to continue to grow as the design is better defined. (By comparison, U.S. astronauts accumulated a total of just over 600 hours of spacewalk experience from 1965 to 1994). The number of spacewalks is important in terms of risk to the astronauts, potential program schedule slippage if they cannot be completed on time, and diverting the astronauts from scientific tasks. It also may raise concerns about the station's design. In 1990, growing estimates of spacewalk requirements for Freedom were a factor that led Congress to direct NASA to redesign that space station. NASA asserts that it has changed its philosophy about spacewalks based on more experience. Instead of considering them risky activities that should be used only as a last resort, NASA now views them as opportunities limited only by the number that possibly can be performed within what NASA considers to be conservative flight rule constraints. The fact that ISS requires more spacewalks than expected, causing NASA to change its philosophy, may raise issues about this design, as it did for Freedom.

In the spring of 1996, NASA identified $144 million in cost growth in the program: $100 million attributable to the program being 2 weeks behind schedule, and $44 million due to cost growth in some of the contracts. By the end of March 1996, this had grown to $188 million ($54 million in contracts, $134 million in schedule slippage). NASA stresses that this is not an overrun, since it has adequate reserves to cover it. While small in comparison to the total cost of the program, NASA officials have expressed concern that such growth is occurring so early in the program, but intend to remedy the situation without exceeding the $2.1 billion annual cost cap. One specific problem is that the first U.S. segment, called a "node" and due for launch in December 1997, failed to meet required specifications during pressurization tests resulting in requirements for additional funding to fix the problem. In March 1996, NASA Administrator Goldin gave the space station program manager control of money allocated for (and previously overseen by) the space science offices at NASA, and directed space station users to respond to direction from the program manager. Congress gave NASA approval to transfer money from those science accounts to space station construction in the FY1997 VA-HUD-IA appropriations act (P.L. 104-204). Consequently, less science will be conducted on the station during the assembly period.

Russia's Role: "Enhancing" Versus "Enabling". In the FY1994 VA-HUD-IA appropriations bill (P.L. 103-124), Congress stated that Russian participation "should enhance and not enable" the space station. Thus, Congress agreed with adding Russia as long as it did not make the program dependent on Russia for its successful completion. The current design of the station, however, can only be viewed as being "enabled" by Russian participation. The design is dependent on Russian systems for (1) guidance, navigation and control (GN&C) which will be performed at first by the Russian FGB module and later by the Russian Service Module; (2) reboost to keep the station from reentering Earth's atmosphere; (3) Crew Return Vehicles for returning crews in emergencies; (4) life support systems; and (5) roll control during assembly, to help keep the space station oriented properly. To deflect criticism, NASA made several changes in June 1994. NASA will provide its own life support systems (although Russia's Service Module will serve as crew quarters for most of the assembly phase), and altered the assembly sequence to ensure that the station would not be dependent on Russia for electrical power. Subsequent changes now make it necessary for NASA to provide power to the Russian modules for part of the assembly period. NASA is also purchasing (rather than leasing) the FGB module, using a U.S. company (Boeing) to buy it from the Russian manufacturer. To some, this means the FGB module is "American" rather than "Russian" and hence ensures that Russia is not "enabling" the space station. Others note that the module still must be built by Russia and launched by a Russian rocket and hence is just as "Russian" as before. Reboost, "lifeboat," and roll control are still Russian-only contributions during the assembly phase.

Risks and Benefits of Russian Participation. The extent to which the program is dependent on Russia is quite important in terms of program risk. While there will be technical challenges (such as the success-oriented assembly sequence and the growing number of spacewalks), Russia's ability to meet its commitments because of the state of the Russian economy is a major issue today. Congressional and White House concerns that Russia is not providing adequate funding to the company (Khrunichev) building early space station hardware led to exchanges of letters of the spring of 1996. In mid-April, Russian Prime Minister Chernomyrdin wrote to Vice President Gore assuring him that funding would be forthcoming. Chernomyrdin's assurances muted the U.S. concerns, but reports continue to circulate that the money is not being provided. Russian space officials now acknowledge that the Service Module, a critical element scheduled for launch in April 1998, is 8 months behind schedule. The Logistics Transfer Vehicle and Science Power Platform also are delayed.

Political issues also are crucial. The overall relationship between the United States and Russia is a major factor. Another is the linkage between the space station and Russian adherence to the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) designed to stem proliferation of ballistic missile technology. Getting Russia to adhere to the MTCR appears to have been a primary motivation behind the White House's decision to add Russia as a partner. The United States wanted Russia to restructure a contract with India which would have given India advanced rocket engines and associated technology and know-how. Disputes over this issue caused cancellation of the original Gore- Chernomyrdin meeting planned for June 1993. Resolution was reached in July, wherein Russia agreed to stop transferring technology and know-how to India (the United States did not object to selling the engines themselves); the agreement was formally signed at the September 1-2 meeting. Russia claimed at the time that restructuring the contract would cost them $400 million in lost sales, the same amount the United States subsequently agreed to pay Russia for space cooperation. The question is what the United States will do if Russia violates the MTCR in the future.

Another issue is that the launch site Russia uses to support Mir and which will be used for ISS is in Kazakstan. Hence the economic and political stability of that country is of concern, along with continued good political relationships between Kazakstan and Russia. The health of the physical infrastructure at the launch facility, called the Baikonur Cosmodrome, is also an issue. Russia and Kazakstan have formally agreed to Russian lease of Baikonur for $115 million a year, but the question remains as to how much money Russia can afford and is willing to invest to improve and maintain facilities there.

Involving Russia as a partner has benefits, too, particularly for broad U.S. foreign policy relative to Russian adherence to the MTCR, U.S. financial assistance to Russia, and keeping Russian aerospace workers employed in non-threatening activities. The White House also points to the emotional impact and historic symbolism of the two former Cold War adversaries working together in space. White House and NASA offic-ials asserted repeatedly in 1993 that a joint space station would accelerate the schedule by 2 years and reduce U.S. costs by $4 billion. This was modified to 1 year and $2 billion, and an April 1, 1994 letter to Congress from NASA says 15 months and $1.5 billion. NASA officials continue to use the $2 billion figure, however. A June 24, 1994 GAO report (GAO/NSIAD 94-220) concluded that only $600 million would be saved because NASA must spend $1.4 billion to accommodate Russia's involvement, and all of the $600 million may not be attributable to Russia's participation. NASA also asserts that the resulting multinational space station will be larger and have more electrical power. The GAO report comments that more scientific research could be possible with the Russian participation, but that it is too early to tell how much the U.S. research community would benefit.

The question is whether the risks are worth the benefits. Some observers remain concerned about the degree to which the design is dependent on Russia, and on whether the design and success-oriented assembly sequence have the maturity to quell concerns about NASA's ability to fulfill its role within cost and on schedule.

Congressional Action

102nd Congress

During consideration of the FY1992 and FY1993 budgets, Congress defeated 5 attempts to terminate the space station program. In all but one case, the votes were on the appropriations bills that funds NASA (VA-HUD-Independent Agencies); the other was a NASA authorization bill. The votes were: June 6, 1991, House, Chapman-Lowery amendment to the FY1992 appropriations bill which restored funding for the space station following a House Appropriations Committee recommendation to terminate the program, adopted 240-173; July 17, 1991, Senate, Bumpers amendment to the appropriations bill to terminate the station, defeated 35-64; Apr. 29, 1992, House, Roemer amendment to the FY1993 NASA authorization bill to terminate the station, defeated 159-254; July 29, 1992, House, Traxler amendment to FY1993 appropriations bill to terminate the station, defeated 181-237; Sept. 9, 1993, Senate, Bumpers amendment to FY1993 appropriations bill to terminate the station, defeated 34-63.

103rd Congress

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The 103rd Congress defeated 5 attempts to terminate the space station program in NASA funding bills, and 3 other attempts in broader legislation. For FY1994, NASA requested and Congress approved (P.L. 103-124) $2.1 billion for the space station program. On June 28, 1993, the House defeated a Roemer amendment (196-220) to terminate the program; on September 21, the Senate rejected a similar Bumpers amendment (59-40). The House approved a FY1994 NASA authorization bill after defeating a Roemer amendment (215-216) on June 23 that would have terminated the program, but the Senate did not act on the legislation. The House defeated a Frank-Shays amendment (184-248) to the Reinventing Government Act (H.R. 3400) on November 22, 1993, that included terminating the space station. An amendment by Senator Kerry (MA) to the emergency supplemental appropriations bill (H.R. 3759) that would have terminated the space station as part of a deficit reduction package was defeated (20-75) on February 10, 1994. For FY1995, Congress appropriated $2.113 billion for the space station, the requested amount (P.L. 103-327). On March 10, the House defeated a Solomon amendment to the FY1995 Budget Resolution (H.Con.Res. 218) that included termination of the space station (73- 342). The House defeated a Roemer amendment to the FY 1995 VA-HUD-Independent Agencies Appropriations bill on June 29, 1994 to terminate the space station (278-155); the Senate defeated a similar Bumpers amendment on August 3 (36-64). No FY1995 NASA authorization bill cleared Congress.

104th Congress

The 104th Congress also defeated 5 attempts to terminate the space station. For FY1996, NASA requested $2.115 billion for the space station program ($1.84 billion in the space station line, the remainder in other accounts). An additional $133 million was requested for related activities ($100 million for Russian cooperation; $33 million for the super lightweight tank). Two amendments to terminate the space station program were defeated during House consideration of the FY1996 VA-HUD-IA appropriations bill (H.R. 2099) on July 27 (Obey, 126-299) and July 28 (Roemer, 132-287), and one during Senate debate on September 26 (Bumpers, 35-64). The conference report included full funding for the station. The bill was vetoed December 18 for reasons unrelated to NASA; NASA ultimately was included in the FY1996 omnibus appropriations bill (P.L. 104-134), and the space station was fully funded. No FY1996 NASA authorization bill cleared Congress. The House had passed H.R. 1601, a multi-year (FY1996-2002) authorization for the space station program, and H.R. 2405, an omnibus civilian science authorization bill that included NASA's FY1996 authorization for programs other than space station. The Senate passed S. 1048, an authorization bill that covered all NASA programs and included $2.100 billion for the space station.

For FY1997, NASA requested a total of $13.8 billion and Congress appropriated $13.7 billion in the FY1997 VA-HUD-IA appropriations bill (P.L. 104-204). For space station, $2.1 billion ($1.8 billion in the space station line item, the remainder in other accounts) was requested and received, plus $100 million for cooperation with Russia and $31.2 million for the superlightweight tank. The House defeated (voice vote) a Roemer amendment to cut $75 million from the program during consideration of the appropriations bill on June 26, and the Senate defeated a Bumpers amendment to terminate the program (60-37) on September 4. No FY1997 NASA authorization bill cleared Congress. The House had passed an Omnibus Civilian Science Authorization bill (H.R. 3322), including NASA, on May 30 after defeating a Roemer amendment to terminate the space station (127-286) and another Roemer amendment to cut $75 million from the program (146-269). The Senate Commerce Committee reported its version of the FY1997 NASA authorization (S. 1839) on July 22 recommending full funding. No further action occurred.

International Partners

The Original Partners: Europe, Canada and Japan

Canada, Japan, and 10 of the 14 members of the European Space Agency (ESA) are participating with the United States in building the space station today. Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, and Switzerland signed a declaration in October 1995 indicating their participation in the ESA program that will develop Europe's contribution. Sweden, an informal participant for many years, signed the declaration in spring 1996. All but Sweden and Switzerland already are signatories to the Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) signed on September 29, 1988 setting forth the basic parameters of the space station agreement. (The United Kingdom signed the IGA as well, but is no longer participating in the program.) Each partner's implementing agency also signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with NASA spelling out specific responsibilities. Canada and ESA signed their MOUs at the same time as the 1988 IGA; Japan signed its MOU on March 14, 1989. The governments of Japan, Canada and each European country must ratify the IGA, since it is considered a treaty in those countries (it is an Executive Agreement in the United States). The IGA and MOUs are now being revised to include Russia. In addition, letters of agreement were exchanged to deal with special issues, in particular potential military uses of the space station. NASA also signed an agreement with Italy in December 1991 for Italy to provide two pressurized logistics modules for scientific experiments (expected cost, $400 million).

Canada plans to contribute the Mobile Servicing System (MSS) for assembling and maintaining the space station, although it decreased its participation in the program to reduce costs (see below). ESA plans to build a laboratory module called the Columbus Orbital Facility (COF). Budgetary difficulties led ESA to cancel a planned co- orbiting platform; a polar platform once considered part of the space station program is no longer part of this activity. ESA added an Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) and a Crew Transfer Vehicle (CTV) to its part of the program, but in October 1995, formally decided not to build the CTV (a 3-year study was approved instead). Japan plans to build a laboratory module, the Japanese Experiment Module (JEM); part of it will be pressurized and another part will be exposed to space (for experiments requiring those conditions). In the fall of 1996, NASA proposed that Japan provide the centrifuge and a module for accommodating it. In exchange, Japan would not have to pay NASA for the shuttle flights needed to launch JEM and its equipment. Through FY1995, ESA spent $2 billion on its portion of the program, and expects to spend $3.9 billion more from 1996-2004, plus $3 billion from 2004-2013 for operating costs. Not including operating costs, Japan expects to spend $2.6 billion; Canada, $1 billion; and Italy (for its bilateral agreement with NASA), $.5 billion.

Like the United States, Europe and Canada have faced financial difficulties and reassessed their involvement in the program. After months of uncertainty, in October 1995, ESA reaffirmed its intention to build the Columbus module and the ATV. The major contributors are Germany (41%), France (27.6%) and Italy (17%). The new prime minister of Canada decided in February 1994 to terminate Canada's role in the program, but decided to reformulate Canada's participation instead. Canada will build parts of the MSS, but NASA assumed financial responsibility for other parts, and Canada delayed a decision whether to build the Special Purpose Dexterous Manipulator (SPDM, a robotic device intended to fit at the end of the "arm," and often called the "fingers"). Canada reportedly has decided to provide the SPDM, with formal Canadian government approval expected in December 1996.

Russia

Technical and policy issues associated with Russia's participation in ISS are discussed elsewhere in this report. This section explains Russian (Soviet) space station activities from 1971 to the present.

Russia, in conjunction with other former Soviet republics, continues to have an active space program, including continued operation of the space station Mir (meaning peace), the first segment of which was launched in 1986. The Soviet Union launched the world's first space station, Salyut 1, in 1971. Since then, five more Salyuts and Mir have been successfully orbited. 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 that were often shared with NASA. They also performed microgravity materials processing research, and astronomical and Earth remote sensing observations. Importantly, they have gained considerable experience in operating space stations. (For a review of Soviet/Russian/CIS space station activities, see CRS Report 95-873 SPR.)

Ten of the former Soviet republics that formed the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) signed an agreement in 1991 to cooperate in space activities. Russia designed, built and continues to operate Mir; the space station, its modules, crews and resupply flights are launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakstan. To date, operations of Mir have not been affected by the political situation in Russia, though economic conditions have had some impact, particularly in terms of launch schedules.

Mir is a modular space station (see CRS Report 93-870 SPR) and the core module was launched in 1986. Five modules have been added since: Kvant (astrophysics), 1987; Kvant 2 (logistics), 1989; Kristall (materials processing), 1990; Spektr (atmospheric studies), 1995; and the last one, Priroda (remote sensing), 1996.

Except for short periods in 1986, 1987, and 1989, crews have continuously occupied Mir on a rotating basis. Although occasionally crews stay for very long periods of time to study human reaction to long duration spaceflight, typically crews remain for 5-6 months and then are replaced by a new set of cosmonauts. Two Russians and American Norman Thagard took up residency in March 1995; Thagard was the first American on Mir. He returned aboard the U.S. space shuttle Atlantis, which docked with Mir on June 29, 1995, the first of 9 planned dockings from 1995-1998. The second shuttle-Mir docking, but with no crew exchange, took place in November 1995. The third took place in March 1996, delivering U.S. astronaut Shannon Lucid who joined two Russian men already aboard. The first American woman on Mir, her planned 5-month visit was extended by technical and weather problems that delayed the shuttle mission to bring her home. She ultimately set a record for an American, and a woman, in space (188 days), returning in September on a shuttle mission that delivered her replacement, John Blaha. He is expected to remain for 4 months. Foreign governments and companies can pay to send representatives to Mir on a commercial basis. Individuals from Japan, Britain, Austria, Germany and France have already flown to Mir. Crews are ferried back and forth to Mir using Soyuz spacecraft (reminiscent of Apollo capsules). A Soyuz spacecraft is always attached to Mir when a crew is aboard in case of an emergency, and Soyuz capsules are planned as Crew Return Vehicles during the assembly phase of ISS.

Issues For Congressional Consideration

Rationale

When NASA, the Reagan Administration, and Congress considered the rationale for building a space station in the early 1980s, NASA summed it up by calling a space station "the next logical step" in the space program. In many respects, that is the fundamental rationale for the space station program. Human exploration of space appeals to what many believe is an innate desire to push the frontiers of human experience. They view the space station as the next step in America's -- and humanity's -- inexorable desire to explore new worlds. Life sciences research on the effects of long durations in weightlessness on human physiology is considered by some scientists as a prerequisite to sending people to Mars, research for which a space station is required. [During the Bush Administration, the space station was identified as a first step in the President's quest to return humans to the Moon and then go on to Mars--the Space Exploration Initiative (SEI). Some SEI advocates questioned the need for space station research, however, arguing that new propulsion technology could shorten the trip time so health effects of weightlessness were no longer a concern. Congress terminated SEI in FY1993 because of budget constraints, however, so the debate has waned.] Other supporters believe materials research conducted on a space station will lead to new profitable industries, although this rationale was dismissed by the White House science office and the National Academy of Sciences in 1991 (discussed earlier).

Human spaceflight is felt by many in the space community to be the heart and soul of the space program; without it, they wonder what NASA would do. For them, the debate over the space station is a debate over America's future in space and NASA's purpose. A rejection of the program would be viewed as an abandonment of the vision they perceive as inherent in a strong national program of civilian space activities. As a visible symbol of America's technological prowess, human spaceflight is often perceived as a centerpiece of American preeminence, an image still important in the post-Cold War world.

This somewhat romantic view is in stark contrast to those who view human exploration of space as, at best, a waste of money, and at worst, an unnecessary exposure of humans to the hazards of space travel. These observers argue that there is much yet to explore here on Earth, and robotic spacecraft should be used to explore the heavens for safety and cost-effectiveness reasons. They see the Apollo, space shuttle and space station programs as successive drains on resources that could be better used for robotic space activities, or non-space related activities.

Cost and Cost Effectiveness

Cost effectiveness involves what can be accomplished with the facility that is ultimately built versus its cost. According to its current estimate, the space station will cost NASA $17.4 billion from FY1994-2002 (not including shuttle launch costs, costs for the super lightweight tank, or the $480 million for Russia), and $13 billion for 10 years of operations (2003-2012). NASA's 1993 estimate of total program costs for FY1985-2012 is $72.3 billion; GAO said in 1995 it is $94 billion (GAO/NSIAD-95-163). NASA asserts that ISS will provide resources for more science activity than the September 7 Alpha design. Cost estimates for Freedom rose significantly as the years passed, and with each Freedom redesign, the amount of science diminished. Many wondered whether the same fate would await the International Space Station. Events in 1996 suggest that it will. Following reports of cost growth, NASA gave the space station program manager responsibility for all space station funding, including that previously under the control of NASA's space science offices. Subsequently NASA decided to shift money from the space station science accounts into space station construction, with a consequent decrease in how much science will be conducted on the station during the assembly period. Congress approved this decision in the FY1997 VA-HUD-IA appropriations bill. A related question is the impact on other NASA science programs of funding the space station. NASA's budget is increasingly strained, creating concern that traditional space science programs will suffer so the space station can survive. Some space station advocates assert that a major benefit of the station is biomedical research that could be conducted there and might lead to cures for diseases on Earth or otherwise contribute to Earth-based biomedical research. The question is whether billions of dollars should be spent on building a space station that might -- or might not -- provide answers to medical questions, or if the money should be channeled directly into Earth-based research.

Jobs

The jobs aspect of the space station program has taken on increasing importance as cutbacks in government defense and aerospace spending have placed stresses on the U.S. aerospace industry. According to NASA, the space station involves 13,000 direct and indirect jobs, with a total of 45,500 people employed if a 2.5 economic multiplier is used. This does not include civil service employees (which are being reduced from 2,300 to 1,000).

Credibility of the Redesign Process and Technical Challenges

Two important issues are the maturity of the space station design and the reliability of the program's cost estimates. The two are interrelated in the respect that immature designs often lead to technical surprises that can cost money to remedy. Critics argued that 1993 redesign was too short and hurried to develop a credible design and cost estimate. ISS's design continues to evolve, although NASA insists that 75% of its portion of the design is from Freedom. How much credibility will be attached to the cost and schedule estimate is difficult to gauge, since the estimates have been wrong so many times in the past. The large number of launches required during the assembly phase (discussed earlier) gives many observers pause. The increasing requirement for EVA (spacewalks), now estimated at 1104 hours (compared with the 434 hour original estimate) is also of concern. Nevertheless, a November 29, 1995 National Research Council (NRC) letter report to NASA concluded that the program "has made enormous progress and is on course," while noting a number of technical areas that continue to need attention (including testing and verification, contingency planning for launch and payload delays and failures, and crew time utilization).

International Commitments

The original non-U.S. partners have weathered American budget battles over the program for more than 10 years. The partners were dismayed about all the 1993 redesign options because each would require modifications to their space station elements. Following several high-level meetings of all the partners, however, they agreed to collectively invite Russia to join the program. Russia accepted on December 16, 1993. Negotiations are underway to revise the Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA), which governs the program, accordingly.

Space station supporters argue that America has a responsibility to live up to its international agreements and a decision to terminate the station would negatively affect prospects for future space and scientific cooperation. These arguments are countered by those who insist that the government's first responsibility is to U.S. taxpayers and that any of the other participants in the program could similarly decide to pull out of the program if their own national interests changed. Some observers argue that the international ramifications of terminating the space station program are important, but should not be the decisive factor. The existing IGA has a clause allowing any signatory to withdraw simply by giving one year's notice.

Uniting with the Russians

The risks and benefits to the United States of Russia's participation in the program already have been discussed. For Russia, the benefits are clear: they can continue their long history of having cosmonauts in orbit; they will receive at least $662 million in hard currency ($472 million from NASA and $190 million from the Boeing-Khrunichev contract); and their involvement contributes to their prestige. For Russia, a disincentive is that there is no guarantee that the United States will fulfill its role in the program, or that the station will not be subjected to additional redesigns.

For the United States, the concept is appealing emotionally as a symbol of the end of the Cold War and to those who have long awaited major space collaboration between the two countries. NASA asserts the station will cost less, be ready sooner, and provide more science capability than the earlier Alpha design. Russia agreed to abide by the MTCR, an important American foreign policy objective, and space cooperation is a mechanism for channeling economic assistance to Russia. On the negative side, there is no guarantee that Russia will remain faithful to the MTCR pledge. We also must wonder whether Russia, which faces even greater political and economic questions than do we, will be able to fulfill its role.


LEGISLATION

P.L. 104-204, H.R. 3666
FY1997 VA-HUD-Independent Agencies appropriations bill (includes NASA). Reported by House Appropriations Committee June 18 (H.Rept. 104-628); passed House June 26. House defeated (voice vote) Roemer amendment to cut space station funding by $75 million. Reported from Senate Appropriations Committee July 11 (S.Rept. 104-318). Senate defeated Bumpers amendment (60-37) to terminate the space station September 4; passed bill September 5. Conference report (H.Rept. 104-812) filed September 20; passed House September 24; Senate September 25. Signed into law September 26.

H.R. 3322 (Walker et al.)
Omnibus Civilian Science Authorization Act of 1996. Includes NASA. Introduced April 25, 1996; referred to National Security, Resources, Science, and Transportation and Infrastructure Committees. Reported from Science Committee May 1 (H.Rept. 104-550, Pt. 1). Discharged from other three committees on May 6. Passed House May 30. No further action.

S. 1839 (Pressler)
FY1997 NASA authorization bill. Reported from Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee July 22 (S.Rept. 104-327). No further action.