NASA Finally Revealed Who Will Help Intentionally Destroy The International Space Station

The space agency picked SpaceX to be the space station's grim reaper.

NASA announced who will execute its plan to destroy the football-field-wide International Space Station (ISS).

The orbiting laboratory went up piece by piece, flight after flight via the Space Shuttles. But the currently plan for the proposed U.S. Deorbit Vehicle, as its being called, would be to bring humanity’s farthest outpost down all at once. On Wednesday, the space agency said it selected SpaceX to develop and deliver this spacecraft to allow for a “safe and responsible” end to the station’s space tenure after 2030.

Both the vehicle and its cargo would burn up in Earth’s atmosphere. “While the company will develop the deorbit spacecraft, NASA will take ownership after development and operate it throughout its mission. Along with the space station, it is expected to destructively break up as part of the re-entry process,” NASA officials wrote in the announcement.

In December 2021, during a six-hour and 32 minute spacewalk to replace a failed antenna system on the International Space Station’s Port-1 truss structure, NASA astronaut Thomas Marshburn snapped this picture with his camera.

NASA Johnson

The mission’s main goal is to ensure there’s no risk of harm to populated areas. The first step is to dock the vehicle to the ISS. Then teams would gradually lower their altitude until they’re ready to perform the deorbit burn. The vehicle would execute that burn, NASA officials told reporters on Friday afternoon.

Why destroy the space station?

The ISS is subject to numerous forces as it orbits 270 miles above the planet’s surface. Year after year, these take their toll. The station currently requires regular maintenance by the astronauts who swap in and out, keeping the station permanently occupied and functional.

What’s more, NASA also seeks to open up its budget for loftier goals. Retiring the ISS may free up resources to develop the Artemis program, which could see the first humans on the Moon since Apollo.

What’s next?

NASA officials said they will be working with SpaceX to execute the design and construction of the U.S. Deorbit Vehicle. The mission’s final price tag also isn’t set. “The single-award contract has a total potential value of $843 million,” according to the announcement.

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