NASA Offers SpaceX $843 Million to Crash The International Space Station Into The Ocean

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The International Space Station (ISS) is nearing the end of its operational life, and NASA has a plan to safely deorbit it.

NASA has awarded SpaceX a contract worth up to $843 million to push the ISS out of orbit and guide it back to Earth.

A Plan for the Future

SpaceX will develop a special vehicle to drag the ISS, which is as large as a football field, back to Earth.

This mission is set to happen sometime after the ISS’s operational life ends in 2030.

The station will re-enter Earth’s atmosphere at more than 17,000 mph (27,500 km/h) and crash into a designated spot in the ocean.

Ken Bowersox, NASA’s associate administrator for Space Operations Mission Directorate, stated that this move supports NASA’s plans for future commercial space destinations and allows continued use of space near Earth.

A Long History of Scientific Research

The ISS launched its first parts in 1998 and has been home to astronauts from the U.S., Japan, Russia, Canada, and Europe since 2000.

Over 3,300 scientific experiments have been conducted there in low Earth orbit.

However, the station is aging, with technical faults and leaks causing problems for crews.

The international agreements between the five participating space agencies will also end by 2030.

Challenges from Space Debris

The ISS faces risks from space junk—orbital debris from defunct satellites moving at high speeds.

Recently, nine astronauts had to take shelter in the docked Boeing Starliner crew capsule due to debris from a shattered Russian satellite.

Fortunately, they returned safely to the ISS after about an hour.

Looking Ahead

While the ISS is set to end operations in 2030, NASA is committed to its mission throughout that year.

Steve Stich, manager of NASA’s commercial crew program, mentioned that the ISS would likely continue its work until new commercial space stations are ready.

These include Axiom Space’s Axiom Station and the Orbital Reef by Blue Origin and Sierra Space, both expected to be operational by the end of the decade.

A Shared Responsibility

It’s still unclear how much other space agencies will contribute to the ISS’s deorbiting.

NASA emphasized that all five space agencies involved share responsibility for the safe deorbiting of the ISS.

However, the extent of their financial or technical contributions to SpaceX’s mission remains unspecified.

This won’t be the first time a space station has been deorbited.

In 2001, Russia’s Mir space station was sent crashing back to Earth, with its surviving fragments landing in the Pacific Ocean.

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