The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency may provide a new life-support system for the International Space Station so Japanese astronauts can continue participating in the orbiting laboratory through 2024, people close to the matter said Saturday.

The development of the Environmental Control and Life Support System would be part of Japan's contribution to ensure it can keep sending astronauts to the ISS, whose operation is set to be extended from 2020, they said.

An official announcement on the plan might be made when the government's draft budget for the next fiscal year is compiled around the turn of the year, they said.

The new life-support equipment that is used to purify water and air on the station would be one-quarter the size of the current system, which is based on U.S. and Russian technologies. JAXA aims to cut power consumption in half and reduce maintenance work with the new equipment, the sources said.

An improved life-support system would be needed for future space programs such as a lunar orbital station and a manned mission to Mars.