SpaceX lands lucrative NASA contract to destroy ISS after 2030

SpaceX lands lucrative NASA contract to destroy ISS after 2030

NASA has awarded SpaceX a multimillion-dollar contract to safely deorbit the International Space Station at the end of its operational life after 2030.

The contract, potentially worth $843m, would enable Elon Musk’s company to build a vehicle to destroy the orbiting laboratory in a way that avoids risk to populated areas.

“Selecting a US Deorbit Vehicle for the International Space Station will help NASA and its international partners ensure a safe and responsible transition in low Earth orbit at the end of station operations,” Ken Bowersox, associate administrator of Space Operations Mission Directorate at NASA, said in a statement.

“This decision also supports NASA’s plans for future commercial destinations and allows for the continued use of space near Earth.”

The ISS was built starting in the 1980s and launched in orbit between the late 1990s and early 2000s.

It remains a blueprint for international science, exploration and cooperation in space with over 3,300 experiments conducted in microgravity.

But NASA has noted signs of wear and tear on the space station, largely due to the extreme conditions it endures orbiting the Earth.

Cosmic radiation, for instance, has charred the glass on the solar cells powering the ISS, while repeated docking and undocking have led to its gradual structural degradation.

The US, Japan, Canada and member nations of the European Space Agency have committed to operating the station through 2030. Russia, despite geopolitical tensions with the West, has said it would continue space station operations through at least 2028.

After 2030, NASA intends to deorbit the station.

The contract given to SpaceX would allow the private company to develop a deorbit spacecraft, which NASA would take ownership of.

The spacecraft would push the space station out of stable orbit around the Earth and they would both break up and burn while entering the atmosphere.

NASA said the safe deorbit of the ISS would be the responsibility of all five participating space agencies.

“Station is the cornerstone of space commerce, from commercial crew and cargo partnerships to commercial research and national lab research, and lessons learned aboard the International Space Station are helping to pass the torch to future commercial stations,” NASA said.