NASA can use a space tugboat to dismantle the space station | digital trends

NASA aims to build a special spacecraft capable of guiding the International Space Station to a safe de-orbit position when it is decommissioned in 2030.

Details of the plan were laid out in recent days when the White House released its 2024 budget request.

The proposed $27.2 billion allocation to NASA includes $180 million to begin development of a so-called “space tug” designed to ensure the station burns up safely when it enters Earth’s atmosphere seven years from now. reported Space.com.

However, the final cost of the tug could reach nearly a billion dollars, according to comments made Monday by Kathy Lueders, head of NASA’s human spaceflight program.

As it is, the ISS could be deorbited by a docked Russian Progress cargo vehicle through a series of engine fires to alter the station’s course. But according to SpaceNews, NASA has concluded that “additional spacecraft may provide more robust de-orbit capabilities,” prompting the agency to explore the idea of ​​a purpose-built space tug.

The space station came into service two decades ago as a place for astronauts to live and work, conducting scientific experiments in microgravity. But its aging design means the facility, which orbits 250 miles above Earth, will be destroyed within a few years.

At more than 100 meters from end to end, great care will have to be taken when dismantling the space station. For example, it has to be maneuvered away from working satellites and any large pieces of space junk before being put on a course that will result in much of it burning up over the Pacific Ocean. However, some is expected to plunge into the sea at Point Nemo, a place far removed from Earth that is known as “the space graveyard” as it is often the target of controlled drops of space junk.

NASA is partnering with private companies with the goal of building a replacement station, while China recently installed its own orbital facility. Russia has also expressed interest in building its own space laboratory in low Earth orbit, and all of these projects ensure that humans, albeit a select few, will continue to live and work in space for years to come.

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James D. Brown
James D. Brown
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