NASA Identifies $1 Billion ISS Deorbiting Solution

28th Nov 2023
NASA Identifies $1 Billion ISS Deorbiting Solution

US space agency, NASA, has found a solution to deorbit the International Space Station (ISS) costing upwards of $1 billion. The solution involves designing and constructing a towing vehicle that can safely deorbit ISS once it reaches its projected lifespan end in 2030. NASA has reportedly requested the funds through their “FY 2024 Budget Request Agency Summary.” 

In late September, NASA put out a call for a deorbiting device that could controllably remove ISS from space. The spacecraft has been labelled: ‘U.S. Deorbit Vehicle (USDV)’ and it will solely focus on bringing ISS back to Earth. “At the conclusion of the International Space Station program, the station will be deorbited in a controlled manner to avoid populated areas,” the statement read

NASA’s ISS Deorbiting Solution & The Proposed Costs

NASA will require $1 billion to fund the USDV with an initial $180 million requested to commence the vehicle’s development. In a budget summary for the U.S. government, NASA has been marked with USDV’s creation: “rather than relying on Russian systems that may not be able to accomplish this task.” 

The contract for USDV has been released for bidding, and to ensure government expenditure and commercial competition is maximised, the contract will endorse “Firm Fixed Price or Cost Plus Incentive Fee” offers. As such, offers will envelop the “design, development, test and evaluation phase.” Following the success of a flexible offer, NASA said “the remainder of the contract will be Firm Fixed Price”. 

Why USDV Is Required Over Current Solutions

NASA affirmed that the vehicle will take a number of years to develop – which includes all validation and testing requirements. This is due to USDV needing the capability to adapt to anomalies during the deorbit process. Previously, NASA spent a year studying Russian deorbiting spacecraft and what is needed to complete the feat. Consequently, NASA decided a novel vehicle was the best solution after completing a preliminary strategy and action plan. 

Replacing ISS

Credit: NASA

After NASA decided to deorbit ISS circa 2030, many space agencies started sketching plans for their own space stations. ISS is currently a joint venture between the US, Russia, Europe, Japan and Canada. However, the US is tasked with the lion’s share of drafting plans for the deorbiting mission. 

In ISS’ place, the European Space Agency announced during their second Space Summit, that they have signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Airbus, Spain and Voyager Space for Starlab Space Station (SSS). 

Proposals for SSS have been in the works for many years. However, ESA has a detailed timeline for SSS. It will launch in 2028, and commence commercial operations in 2029. ESA labelled this plan a “smooth transition” from ISS. Previously, ESA awarded Blue Origin and other commercial space firms contracts for the development of SSS.

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