Space station could operate until 2028

Posted by Emma Woollacott

The International Space Station could remain in use until 2028, officials have said.

The European Space Agency (ESA) says there are no technical reasons why it shouldn't, adding that it's working to approve on-orbit operations until then.

ISS agency heads from Canada, Europe, Japan, Russia and the United States met in Tokyo yesterday to examine thew way forward over the next decade.

The ISS is nearing completion after 12 years' work and around $40 billion cost, and will be able to support a crew of six.

"This research will deliver benefits to humanity on Earth while preparing the way for future exploration activities beyond low-Earth orbit," says ESA.

"The ISS will also allow the partnership to experiment with more integrated international operations and research, paving the way for enhanced collaboration on future international missions."

There had been fears that NASA budget cuts meant that it would operate only until 2015. But Barack Obama recently promised to back the ISS until at least 2020.

But money's still tight, and ESA says it plans to focus on improving efficiency wherever possible.