NASA starts accepting applications for the disposal of the ISS

NASA has started accepting proposals from the American industry for the creation of the USDV (U.S. Deorbit Vehicle) spacecraft. It will be used to deorbit the ISS.

The International Space Station (ISS) orbits the Earth at an altitude of 400 km above the surface. Source: NASA

After the beginning of the large-scale Russian aggression against Ukraine, the fate of the ISS turned from a purely scientific into a political issue. In the first months of the invasion, Russia actively tried to use the station for blackmail, threatening to leave the station after 2024 and either undock or preserve its segment. 

However, the bluff didn’t work. It quickly became clear that if Russia implemented its threats, it would actually bury its manned cosmonautics. Without the ISS, both Soyuz and Progress will have nowhere to fly. Given the current state of its space industry, the Russian Federation is not able to create a new station in any foreseeable time. Therefore, after a while, it announced that it would remain on the ISS until at least 2028. In turn, NASA, ESA and JAXA intend to continue operating the station until the end of 2030.

However, although nothing threatens the ISS at the moment, the current situation has led to the fact that NASA decides to put it on the safe side and develop a plan to de-orbit the station when it is decided to flood it. Initially, it was supposed to use the Progress spacecraft for this. But in conditions when Russia will resume blackmail at any moment, NASA decides to get its own spacecraft that can solve this problem on its own.

The first step in this direction was the draft NASA budget for 2024, which for the first time included the costs of building such a spacecraft. The authors of the document propose to allocate USD 180 million to start work on its development. Now NASA has officially started accepting applications for the creation of an orbital truck. 

At the moment, it is unknown which companies can compete for the contract for the construction of the USDV. It’s also too early to talk about its design. It can be either a completely new spacecraft, or a modification of some already existing vehicle. But it is obvious that the development, testing and certification of USDV will take years. That is why NASA has decided to address this issue now, while there is a large amount of time.

According to

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