NASA has received the go-ahead from the US government to extend the life of the International Space Station, allowing the structure to remain operational through 2024.
The Obama administration today issued an order that will extend the life of the orbiting lab through to its 25th birthday, clearing the way for more missions and experiments.
"We are hopeful and optimistic that our ISS partners will join this extension effort and thus enable continuation of the groundbreaking research being conducted in this unique orbiting laboratory for at least another decade," said NASA administrator Charles Bolden and President Obama's science and technology advisor John P Holdren in a joint statement.
"The extension of ISS operation will allow NASA and the international space community to accomplish a number of important goals."
Earlier this year, the ISS marked its 15th anniversary in orbit, and thanks to a series of recent upgrades and retrofits, the station has seen its lifespan lengthened, with officials estimating that the structure could remain habitable through 2028 and beyond.
According to NASA officials, the ISS may in fact see action well through its new operational date. The agency plans to use the station in support roles for a manned mission to an asteroid and an effort to put astronauts on Mars.
First launched in 1998 and inhabited in 2000, the ISS has served as a base for observations and experiments in orbit around Earth. The station has seen more than 174 spacewalks and has been visited by craft from the US, Russia, Europe and Japan.
Most recently, the ISS has been the target of experimental launches from commercial space flight companies that use the ability to reach the station from terra firma as a selling point in their business plans.
One such mission, undertaken by Orbital Sciences Corp to resupply the ISS, had to be delayed today as a solar flux peppered Earth with an unexpectedly high level of radiation capable of damaging the craft during its launch to the orbiting platform.
The company said that it plans to take another go at the launch on Thursday, 9 January at 1307 EST with a scheduled dock at the ISS at 0602 EST on Sunday. ®