[Via Satellite 12-22-2015] The Japanese government has agreed to support the International Space Station (ISS) until 2024, extending the nation’s participation through the Kibo Japanese Experiment Module and future cargo missions with the Kounotori spacecraft. The U.S. and Japanese governments cemented the decision, which had been progressing throughout the year, through a new cooperation framework known as the Japan-U.S. Open Platform Partnership Program.
The Obama Administration first revealed the United States’ intent on keeping the ISS in orbit for another four years beyond 2020 back in January 2014. Japan, Russia and Canada have since agreed to continue the program, and the European Space Agency (ESA) is moving a station extension proposal through its ministerial-level approval process.
In addition to providing a platform for scientific experiments and research, the ISS has also served as a conduit for small satellites to reach orbit. The recent commitment represents the second time in seven years that the U.S. promoted extending the life of the ISS.