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NASA taps SpaceX to help destroy International Space Station at the end of its life

todayJune 27, 2024 2

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After more than 24 years of astronauts living and conducting science on the International Space Station, NASA has selected SpaceX to help the orbiting laboratory meet its fiery end in the next decade. The International Space Station is a collaboration between 15 countries and five space agencies. Europe, Japan, Canada and the U.S. are committed to operating the station through 2030. Russia plans to continue operations through at least 2028, according to NASA. However, all five space agencies are responsible for the safe deorbit of the space station.  On Wednesday, NASA announced that SpaceX was awarded a contract with a potential value of $843 million to develop a deorbit vehicle to help the space station position itself to avoid populated areas as it is pulled down through Earth’s atmosphere and burns up. ISS ASTRONAUTS TAKE EMERGENCY SHELTER AFTER RUSSIAN SATELLITE BREAKS UP NEAR SPACE STATION”Selecting a U.S. Deorbit Vehicle for the International Space Station will help NASA and its international partners ensure a safe and responsible transition in low Earth orbit at the end of station operations. This decision also supports NASA’s plans for future commercial destinations and allows for the continued use of space near Earth,” said Ken Bowersox, associate administrator for Space Operations Mission Directorate at NASA. “The orbital laboratory remains a blueprint for science, exploration, and partnerships in space for the benefit of all.”The contract differs from NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, in which SpaceX owns and operates the Crew Dragon spacecraft that shuttles astronauts to and from the ISS. In this case, after SpaceX is done developing the deorbit spacecraft, NASA will take over ownership after development and operate it through its mission, which is to safely destroy the ISS. “SpaceX is honored to be entrusted by NASA to support this critical mission,” the company said on X.Russian hardware currently provides the ISS’s propulsion maneuvers. NASA and SpaceX did not specify what the deorbit vehicle would look like; instead, they said that it would also be destroyed by the ISS when it is dragged back down to Earth. “Along with the space station, (the deobrit vehicle) is expected to destructively breakup as part of the re-entry process,” NASA said.Several U.S. companies have plans to launch and build space stations in low-Earth orbit. NASA plans to be a customer on these stations instead of operating and owning its own. NASA has provided some funding for three commercial space stations currently under development. Axiom Space is building a commercial space station, with the first module launching in 2026. Axion Space has permission from NASA to connect its first modules to the ISS. When the space station is ready to deorbit, the Axiom Space station will separate and continue operating in space independently.Blue Origin has partnered with Boeing, Sierra Space and Redwire Space to design and build another space station, Orbital Reef, which will act as a “business park” 250 miles above Earth.Voyager Space is working with Airbus and Northrop Grumman to develop another station called Starlab. The company plans to use SpaceX’s Starship to launch Starlab into orbit on a single mission instead of assembling the space station in space. 

Written by: The Dam Rock Station

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