NASA has won the White House backing to extend the life of the International Space Station for four more years, until 2024.
Construction of the ISS began 15 years ago in 1998 and is a joint venture between the US, Russia, Japan, Canada and the European Space Agency (ESA). The ISS has commitments running until 2020 but engineers believe the station could run safely until 2028.
Currently the station is 100% reliant on Russian Soyuz capsules to supply the ISS with vital equipment, food etc, so NASA is currently searching American companies, including Sierra Nevada to help them build and design cheaper alternatives. This possible mini-shuttle is known as the Dream Chaser and would be launched from Cape Canaveral in Florida. It’s thought that the first flight of this vehicle will be in 2016 and fly its first manned mission in 2017.
It is hoped that the Dream Chaser will extend the life of the ISS, and make the ISS a lot more cost effective in the future to run.