NASA has requested proposals from the space industry to build a craft to safely deorbit the International Space Station as part of its planned retirement.
The United States, Japan, Canada and the participating countries of the ESA (European Space Agency) have committed to operating the station until 2030, and Russia until at least 2028. The orbital complex began construction in 1998 and has been continuously inhabited since 2000. It is as big as a football field: 100 meters long and 80 meters wide, and weighs 455 tons.
Once the International Space Station program is completed, the station will be deorbited in a controlled manner to prevent debris from crashing into populated areas.
Russian Progress cargo ships ruled out
NASA and its partners previously developed a preliminary strategy and action plan that evaluated the use of multiple Roscomos Progress cargo spacecraft to support deorbit operations. “These efforts now indicate that a new spacecraft solution would provide more robust capabilities for responsible deorbitation.” To begin the development of this new spacecraft, NASA has now published a request for proposal, as explained in a statement.
The USDV (US Deorbitation Vehicle) focuses on the final deorbiting activity. It will be a new spacecraft design or a modification of an existing spacecraft that must function on its first flight and have sufficient redundancy and anomaly recovery capability to continue the critical deorbitation process. As with any development effort of this size, USDV will take years to develop, test and certify.
(Referential image source: NASA, Europa Press / dpa)