NASA is planning to hand over the control of the International Space Station (ISS) to a commercial company around the mid 2020s, the US space agency has said.
"NASA's trying to develop economic development in low-earth orbit," said Bill Hill, NASA Deputy Associate Administrator for Exploration Systems Development.
"Ultimately, our desire is to hand the space station over to either a commercial entity or some other commercial capability so that research can continue in low-Earth orbit," said Hill, speaking on a panel of NASA staff assembled to discuss the upcoming Mars mission.
The timing fits with the end of the US government's current funding of the ISS programme, which was extended by Obama administration from its original deorbiting date of 2016 through 2020, 'Tech Crunch' reported.
Operations were prolonged through 2024 to help give NASA a platform from which to run its near-Earth preparatory missions leading up to the ultimate manned mission to Mars. However, NASA did not specify any potential buyer.
A new docking adapter is being put in place to support crew shuttle missions from Boeing and SpaceX, both of which are set to start shuttling personnel to the ISS in 2017. SpaceX has been running resupply missions for the space station and NASA since 2012, and has completed nine such missions to date.