SpaceX Wins NASA Contract for Deorbiting the ISS

SpaceX has won a $843 million NASA contract to safely move the International Space Station (ISS) from orbit to the sea. This is part of the department’s program to safely remove the ISS over the next ten years.

The ISS began continuous operation in 1998. However, its service life is almost over and the space station is scheduled to end its orbital tenure around 2030. Leading up to that date, NASA is committed to making its decommissioning as safe as possible and preventing an uncontrolled fall into the Earth’s atmosphere, which could cause dangerous debris to be scattered onto the surface. The agency is planning a controlled return of the station, for which it is engaging SpaceX.

Under the terms of the contract, SpaceX will develop a spacecraft called the US Deorbit Vehicle. It will allow the ISS to be returned safely to Earth without any undue risk to Earthlings. The SpaceX rocket should send the station to the Pacific Ocean, keeping people safe.

The ISS will be heading to a part of the Pacific Ocean called “spacecraft cemetery.” This is an uninhabited area between New Zealand and South America, where the remains of various space objects already rest. According to Engadget, there are about 300 spacecraft there, including capsules, cargo ships, rockets, and more. Many of these spacecraft were used to reach the ISS.

The project is very complex. The ISS weighs almost a million pounds and is too massive to burn up upon re-entry. This complexity suggests that SpaceX may take several years to develop a dedicated apparatus. The ISS will undergo a gradual disintegration and this process should unfold in three stages. The rocket will first send solar panels and radiators out to sea, then individual modules, and finally the main structure, called a truss.

“Selecting a US 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,” said Ken Bowersox, associate administrator for Space Operations Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters.

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