News Flash: International Space Station (ISS) in ‘Chaos’


Missions to the International Space Station are in chaos because the different nations who use it have failed to agree on how to transport supplies and astronauts to and from it, the head of the European Space Agency has claimed.

Jean-Jacques Dordain, director general of the ESA, claimed that while the space station itself has been a "splendid success", it was being severely hampered by the chaotic approach to project planning due to a lack of discussion between national space authorities which means that, from July, Russia will be the only country with a system that can carry astronauts to and from the International Space Station (ISS) due to the phase-out of the US space shuttle.

Speaking at the Paris Air Show on Monday, Mr Dordain said: ""We are not in a very comfortable situation, and that's just a euphemism. The biggest lesson from the international space station programme is entirely the lack of a joint transportation policy. The International Space Station is a splendid co-operation between five partners, but they did make a mistake … we didn't discuss things sufficiently."

Mr Dordain said each country had made a "unilateral decision" on transportation policy justified on "individual grounds" but without considering the wider context of other nations' capabilities – a situation he described as "anarchy".

While NASA decided to phase out its manned space shuttle – previously the key method of transferring astronauts to and from the station – the ESA and Japan both decided to develop unmanned, one-way supply ships.

The European Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) and Japanese H-II Transfer Vehicle (HTV), along with the veteran Russian Progress freighter, burn up in the atmosphere after delivering their cargo loads to the ISS, which means that after the US space shuttle's last mission, which starts on July 8, the only method of transporting astronauts to and from the station will be the Russian Soyuz system – which is incapable of carrying large non-human cargo such as equipment for large experiments.

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