Gerstenmaier, who is currently SpaceX’s consultant after retiring from his duties at NASA, stated that the ongoing commercial investment in the low-Earth orbit payloads is a great move but should not inform the deorbiting of the International Space Station.
In a webinar organized by the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA), Bill Gerstenmaier advocated for keeping the ISS in its place by articulating the objectival advantages station. This public appearance by the official is the first since his departure from NASA last year.
Gerstenmaier explains that the ISS is vital from the aspect of advancing science and technology in the space industry to a facilitator in giving details that can help in the future deep space exploits. He further reported that the ISS had motivated the commercial operations in the space industry, including payload and astronaut’s deployment and facilitating expansion operations in the private sector.
NASA intends to remove the ISS and establish private space stations in the low-Earth orbit. This move may seem like saving for the agency, but Gerstenmaier says that it will be detrimental to the startups and firms depending on the ISS for details, considering it commands a huge fan base as a leader of space.
Gerstenmaier admits that private companies will take a long time to establish a strong foundation that can accelerate commercial stations’ development. ISS is facilitating the growth of the low-Earth orbit markets to catapult the future ventures by commercial firms.
Gerstenmaier retorted that it is better to explore the full potential of the existing concepts and programs like the ISS so that other sectors and stakeholders can build upon them rather than abandon a project as they did with Apollos and regret it.
He added that although the shift from the ISS to private stations will create independence, it is hard to determine the transition period before the space industry can agree that this move was beneficial. Even though this move might free up resources for further exploits, it does not guarantee that the other firms will thrive in the business depending on the ISS.
Previous experiences show that the ISS will be essential all through to 2028. Gerstenmaier reports that the industries depending on the ISS for their technological growth like tourism and pharmaceuticals, will have to start afresh on their experiments, taking them years to acclimatize fully. Therefore, it is essential to consider letting these firms explore their projects and obtain the desired results before making a move.
Additionally, there is still uncertainty on the navigation of the spacecraft from Earth to space since many firms are developing their technology. There is no standard rocket design that we can be sure every company can use yo develop their rockets and successfully launch them into space without malfunctions. Reaching the ISS is a measuring standard for space companies to redesign their vehicles for missions beyond Earth. To sum up, Gerstenmaier says he has learned a lot working at NASA, hoping that he can implement the knowledge at SpaceX to avoid costly errors that have been made in the past.