NASA is moving forward with plans to take the International Space Station out of orbit in 2031 and crash it into the Pacific Ocean, according to the space agency’s International Space Station Transition Report released Monday. NASA explained the ISS will continue operating through 2030 in order to maintain a United States presence in space until private industry operators develop commercial replacements.
“The private sector is technically and financially capable of developing and operating commercial low-Earth orbit destinations, with NASA’s assistance. We look forward to sharing our lessons learned and operations experience with the private sector to help them develop safe, reliable, and cost-effective destinations in space,” said Phil McAlister, director of commercial space at NASA Headquarters, in a statement.
“The report we have delivered to Congress describes, in detail, our comprehensive plan for ensuring a smooth transition to commercial destinations after retirement of the International Space Station in 2030,” he added.
The report explains how NASA will retire the decades-old space station, which is regularly recording technical issues, and developing cracks and leaks.
When the time comes, ISS mission control will maneuver the space station “to line up the final target ground track and debris footprint over the South Pacific Oceanic Uninhabited Area (SPOUA), the area around Point Nemo, ISS operators will perform the ISS re-entry burn, providing the final push to lower ISS as much as possible and ensure safe atmospheric entry.”
Prior to retiring the ISS, NASA aims to “successfully test and validate critical exploration technologies such as Environmental Control and Life Support Systems (ECLSS) that are most effectively conducted on ISS; advance human research to ensure humans can survive and thrive outside of LEO; and enable the ISS to be as much of an analog for a Mars transit mission as is feasible, within the constraints of safe ISS operations.”
“The International Space Station is entering its third and most productive decade as a groundbreaking scientific platform in microgravity,” said Robyn Gatens, director of the International Space Station at NASA Headquarters, in a statement. “This third decade is one of results, building on our successful global partnership to verify exploration and human research technologies to support deep space exploration, continue to return medical and environmental benefits to humanity, and lay the groundwork for a commercial future in low-Earth orbit. We look forward to maximizing these returns from the space station through 2030 while planning for transition to commercial space destinations that will follow.”