During the meeting in the highest circles of NASA William Gerstenmaier (Director of manned missions) confirmed that the Agency is not going to work on the successor to the ISS. Moreover, NASA has no plans to Fund the ISS after 2024 (at least after 2028), as the new primary goal of the Agency is to deliver people to orbit the moon.
“We’re going as fast as possible to squeeze everything possible from the ISS, he said Gerstenmaier. Regardless of whether will continue to fly astronauts to the station in private vehicles or not, NASA will soon be released from this project”.
The Agency has no choice but to leave low earth orbit, because to maintain both projects at the same time not enough budget.
NASA definitely has high hopes that the private sector — those companies that now deliver cargo to the ISS will take the place of Agency in low-earth orbit. However, because NASA can’t help them (or force) to build the ISS 2.0, now it recommends companies to benefit from microgravity research, until there is such possibility. NASA Director Charles Bolden even tries to convince the government to provide tax breaks to companies that want to test their products or materials in orbit.
The transition of the Agency’s lunar orbit not surprising: NASA has long talked about the need to learn more deep space before sending humans to Mars. Huge new SLS rocket will be able to deliver four astronauts to lunar orbit in 2021.