NASA Chooses SpaceX to Develop U.S. Deorbit Vehicle for ISS

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As NASA transitions to commercially owned space destinations, it is crucial to prepare for the safe and responsible deorbit of the International Space Station (ISS) after the end of its operational life in 2030.

NASA has announced that SpaceX has been selected to develop and deliver the U.S. Deorbit Vehicle, which will safely deorbit the ISS and mitigate risks to populated areas. Elon Musk’s SpaceX has shown to be a reliable partner with NASA, especially with the company’s Dragon spacecraft able to consistently send astronauts and supplies to the ISS.

“Selecting a U.S. 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,” said Ken Bowersox, associate administrator for Space Operations Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “This decision also supports NASA’s plans for future commercial destinations and allows for the continued use of space near Earth. The orbital laboratory remains a blueprint for science, exploration, and partnerships in space for the benefit of all.”

SpaceX will develop the deorbit spacecraft, which NASA will take ownership of and operate throughout its mission. The spacecraft, along with the space station, is expected to destructively break up during re-entry.

Since 1998, the International Space Station has been operated by five space agencies: CSA (Canadian Space Agency), ESA (European Space Agency), JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency), NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration), and Roscosmos (State Space Corporation). The station’s operations depend on contributions from all partners, with the United States, Japan, Canada, and ESA countries committed to operations through 2030, and Russia committed through at least 2028. The safe deorbit of the ISS is a collective responsibility of these five agencies.

The contract awarded to SpaceX has a potential value of $843 million, and the launch service for the U.S. Deorbit Vehicle will be procured in the future.