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What happens to the International Space Station at the end of its life?



Normally, all satellites that have survived their usefulness are either driven to re-enter the thicker atmosphere, where they normally burn due to friction before landing (if they are low-orbit satellites). If they are higher-orbit satellites, they will instead be diverted to move farther from Earth. The idea behind it is that no floating junkyard is spinning around our planet, as this can pose a serious security threat to all satellites that are still operating (and especially if they happen to be manned).

For those larger satellites destined to be brought back to earth (and that does not burn off when they re-enter), the Pacific Ocean actually has a special place to go: Point Nemo ( colloquially known as the cemetery of spaceships). This site, containing the remains of some 200 satellites (including the remains of the Mir space station), is so far from human settlements that the astronauts aboard the ISS are closest.

But is it possible to do the same for the entire ISS? Well, there is much to tell here, especially since the station consists of many modules whose construction was not only very expensive, but also carried the already ridiculous costs even further into the lower Earth orbit.

The ISS was originally designed to remain in operation until 2016. Then it was extended to 2020 and then to 2024. NASA has funds to keep it alive until 2025, but after this year, it's not really clear what will happen to it.

The US Space Administration hopes that a third-party company will take the lead, but with estimated annual operating costs of nearly $ 4 billion, finding this new commercial player could prove challenging. And because of the deterioration of the components, the annual costs are rising steadily – even the most important solar modules for power generation are losing their efficiency faster than originally predicted.

The station also loses altitude (1.2 miles) per month at a speed of 2 km, and it is constantly using fuel to keep itself on the right trajectory. Without propulsion, it would eventually return to Earth and, like any other artificial object that re-enters the atmosphere, would be burned by friction. However, since it is so massive (about the size of a soccer field (or slightly larger than a Boeing 747), there is a good chance that everything will not burn.

NASA estimates that up to 16 percent of the ISS survives the reentry, which is up to 78 tons (175,000 pounds), and still causes some damage if, for example, it misses its designated landing site in the middle of the ocean Additional fuel is required for transport aboard – the estimated total cost of safe descent ISS is close to $ 1 billion.

There is a high probability that not all stations will fall back to earth, and Russia intends to separate its segments and reuse them as part of a new space station of its own. which ISS consists of, as well as modules sent by the European Space Agency

I am not married It will not shut down at some point, even if it is quite iconic and unprecedented by the sheer number of astronauts that have stayed on board, as well as the experiments they have performed. It will be abolished because at some point it will no longer be safe for people to be aboard, and it will be even more difficult to justify the (rising) maintenance costs.

Also it will follow An even more impressive and interesting space station that does not orbit the earth. Instead, a new space station orbiting the moon – the official name is Lunar Orbital Platform Gateway (or simply Lunar Gateway / LOP-G), and from 2022 modules are to be sent around the moon It is fully operational by 2028 (albeit a manned Moon landing is planned).

However, LOP-G will not be the only new space station. Russia, like China, plans to have its own space station, and Elon Musk's SpaceX could be ready for its own space station over the next decade.


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