Nasa to spend $1 billion to crash space station back to Earth using 'space tug'

The International Space Station (ISS) will be crashed back to Earth using a ‘space tug’.

Nasa is making plans to safely take the ISS out of orbit after 2030 and has asked the US government for £148m to make a ‘healthy start’ on the mission.

The American space agency’s plans would enable them to cut the Russians out of the process.

The ISS is not owned by one single nation and is a ‘cooperative programme’ between Europe, the United States, Russia, Canada and Japan.

Nasa’s plan echoes that of Russia’s de-orbit of their space station Mir in 2001.
After 15 years in orbit, Mir was guided Earthwards by a small spacecraft and reentered over the Pacific Ocean.

The US space agency is also keen to avoid a scenario similar to the return of Skylab, the first US space station.

Delays in the development of the Space Shuttle meant Skylab’s decaying orbit could not be stopped and atmospheric reentry began in 1979.

Debris showered Western Australia and recovered pieces indicated that the station had disintegrated lower than expected.

The Biden-Harris Administration released the President’s Budget for Fiscal Year 2024 this month. An outline of the proposal requested $27.2 billion for the agency, a 7.1% increase from 2023.

The ‘Budget of the U.S. Government’ document, published last week, outlines the ISS plan under the title ‘Prepares for the International Space Station’s Safe Transition’.

‘The International Space Station will need to be safely deorbited at the end of its operational life as the United States transitions to lower-cost commercial space stations,’ read the document.

‘Rather than relying on Russian systems that may not be able to accomplish this task, the Budget provides $180 million to initiate development of a new space tug that may also be useful for other space transportation Missions.’

On Monday, during a Nasa press conference to discuss the proposed budget, a ballpark price tag for the deorbit tug, was revealed.

‘A cost estimate we had was a little short of about $1 billion,’ Kathy Lueders, Nasa’s human spaceflight chief, said during the press conference.

‘Our goal is to go out with an RFP [request for proposals], and then, obviously, when we get the proposals, then we’re hoping to get a better price than that. But this gives us a healthy start in ’24 to get that critical capability onboard.’

Last year, the Biden-Harris Administration commited to extending space station operations until 2030.

Nasa announced a planned date of January 2031 to de-orbit the ISS using a module to direct any remnants into a remote area of the South Pacific Ocean.

A January 2022 document outlined ISS end-of-life de-orbit planning assumptions. It detailed scheduled retrograde manoeuvres to begin slowly lowering the operational altitude of the ISS.

The result would be a controlled break-up of the station into the ocean.

In 2001, Russia’s space station Mir was bought back to Earth using the thrusters of a small spacecraft.

The Mir entered Earth’s atmosphere at an altitude of about 62 miles and began to disintegrate at about 50 miles with debris impacting the south Pacific east of New Zealand.

Source: Read Full Article