NASA to develop new spacecraft for the destruction of ISS
The International Space Station’s time in orbit will end in 2030. It’ll have to be taken out of its orbit through controlled disintegration into the Earth’s atmosphere. For this, NASA is developing a spacecraft that will maneuver safe disposal of the station.
This was revealed when the Biden administration allocated a budget of $27.2 billion to NASA for the fiscal year 2024, which includes $180 million "to initiate the development of a new space tug" that could deorbit the ISS.
Titled ‘Prepares for the International Space Station’s Safe Transition’, the Budget of the U.S Government for the fiscal year 2024 said, ‘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. Rather than relying on Russian systems that may not be able to accomplish this task, the Budget provides $180 million to initiate the development of a new space tug that may also be useful for other space transportation missions.’
NASA’s got 7 percent more than it acquired in 2023 - making it a difference of $1.8 billion. The budget will allow NASA to continue its space explorations like the discovery of new cosmic shores, and make strides in traveling to and working in space and on the Moon, said the statement by NASA.
But the plan hangs in the balance
Firstly, the purse strings of Washington are in the hands of Congress, which will decide the fate of NASA’s massive allocation.
Not too happy with the budget allocation, Kathy Lueders, NASA's human spaceflight chief, in a press conference Monday said, "A cost estimate we had was a little short of about $1 billion. 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 2024 to get that critical capability onboard."
Secondly, Russia has been keen on opting out of the shared International Space Station deal with the U.S, as was announced by the country’s space chief last year amid high tensions between Washington and Moscow over the Ukraine war.
Apart from allocation for the ISS, the budget allotted $8.1 billion for the Artemis program of lunar exploration, $949 million for the Mars Sample Return mission which would return Martian rock and soil samples to earth, $500 million to reach net zero carbon emissions from the aviation sector, $2.5 billion in the earth Science program, $158 million for NASA’s Office of STeM engagement, $1.39 billion towards NASA’s Space Technology portfolio, $39 million to better understand the worsening debris environment in orbit around the planet.
Propulsion technology has matured considerably, culminating in the New Space Age today.