NASA and private companies assure that the replacement of the ISS will be launched on time

The replacement of the ISS in the form of commercial orbital stations will be ready on time. This was assured by representatives of NASA, Axiom Space, Sierra Space and Nanoracks. Northrop Grumman says that everything will depend on the market.

Starlab station, which may replace the ISS. Source: Nanoracks

ISS replacement will be launched on time

Amid Russia’s threats to withdraw from the International Space Station project, fears have intensified that the planned replacement for it in the form of private orbital projects will not be launched into space on time. At least, NASA hopes not to be left without this partner after 2024.

The existing plans provide for the implementation of as many as four projects by 2030, and ideally by the end of the 2020s. However, last fall, the Office of the NASA Inspector General (OIG) called the current plans “unrealistic” and said that commercial stations would be ready later than 2030. NASA’s Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel (ASAP) expressed the same concerns.

However, on July 27, during a discussion on the development of the ISS, both NASA and private companies expressed their confidence that all projects will be implemented on time. For this purpose, the American Space Agency is implementing a set of measures called Commercial Low Earth Orbit Destinations (CLD). According to the manager of this program, Angela Hart, all the companies participating in this program are developing steadily, so there is nothing to worry about.

He suggested that OIG and ASAP are wrong, because they base their estimates on the timing of the implementation of existing stations. New projects will be based on new structures and designed by more motivated teams.

Commercial companies and their projects

The first to be implemented is the Axiom Space project, which provides for retrofitting the ISS with commercial modules. In fact, it is a transitional stage that will allow efficient use of the existing station while three others are being prepared for launch. Christian Maendre, the executive director of this company, said that they are ready to launch two new compartments on the ISS as early as 2024, but are not sure that the station is ready to accept them. 

Sierra Space President Janet Kavandi is also optimistic about the prospects. Together with Blue Origin, they are developing the Orbital Reef station. It will consist of inflatable modules, the production of which is taking place right now. The first of them should be in orbit in 2027.

Amela Wilson from Nanoracks is also optimistic. This company is developing the Starlab orbital station. According to her, there is nothing to worry about.

The only one who expressed cautious skepticism at the meeting was Rick Mastracchio, director of strategy and business development at Northrop Grumman. According to him, replacing the ISS before it is decommissioned is real. But a lot will depend on the market.

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