TechNasa entrusts £665m deorbit contract to SpaceX for ISS finale

Nasa entrusts £665m deorbit contract to SpaceX for ISS finale

International Space Station (ISS)
International Space Station (ISS)
Images source: © Wikimedia Commons
Karolina Modzelewska

27 June 2024 18:32

On Wednesday, the American space agency NASA announced that it had awarded a contract worth £665 million to SpaceX. The agreement aims to design and build a unique vehicle capable of deorbiting the International Space Station (ISS).

The deorbiting operation of the International Space Station is expected to take place around 2030. Initially, this task was to be entrusted to Russia, which was to use its rocket engines for this purpose.

ISS - Deorbitation is approaching rapidly

The deorbitation operation is a joint effort of various space agencies. Its main goal is to ensure the safe end of the ISS's operational activities. The exact date of this operation will depend on many factors and may change.

The spacecraft to be built, the U.S. Deorbitation Vehicle (USDV), will be attached to the ISS before its closure. During the deorbitation process, the USDV will fire its engines, significantly slowing down the station's speed. This will, in turn, lower the station's orbit and eventually lead to its re-entry into the Earth's atmosphere over a designated area above the Pacific Ocean.

Elon Musk to assist with the ISS

The SpaceX project aims to ensure the safe and controlled conclusion of the ISS mission, minimizing risks to people and property on Earth. Some parts of the station will burn up in the atmosphere, but some debris may fall to Earth.

The original plan was to use Russian rocket engines to conduct the deorbitation manoeuvre. However, in light of the current geopolitical situation, NASA does not want to depend on its partner.

The ISS, a research laboratory the size of a football pitch, is mainly managed by the United States and Russia. Astronauts have been on board for over 23 years. Due to the ageing of components, NASA and its international partners have set 2030 as the planned end date for the station's operations.

Experts believe the deorbitation process is a complicated operation requiring careful planning and execution. The collaboration between NASA and SpaceX represents an important step towards providing the United States with independent capabilities to operate in space.

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