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NASA Selects SpaceX to Build a Vehicle to Deorbit the ISS 

By Rachel Jewett | June 27, 2024

      The International Space Station (ISS). Photo: NASA

      NASA awarded SpaceX a contract worth up to $843 million to develop a vehicle to deorbit the International Space Station (ISS), the agency announced Wednesday. 

      NASA said in the announcement that it is “crucial to prepare for the safe and responsible deorbit of the International Space Station in a controlled manner after the end of its operational life in 2030.”  The United States, Japan, Canada, and the participating countries of ESA have committed to operating the station through 2030. 

      “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. This decision also supports NASA’s plans for future commercial destinations and allows for the continued use of space near Earth,” said Ken Bowersox, associate administrator for Space Operations Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington.

      The contract does not include the launch of the vehicle, which will be contracted separately. 

      SpaceX will develop the deorbit spacecraft, but NASA will operate it throughout its mission. The vehicle will also breakup alongside the ISS as part of the re-entry process. NASA and SpaceX did not release more specifics at this time on what the deorbit vehicle will look like. 

      NASA and commercial partners are working on what will take the place of the ISS, with a number of commercial projects in the works, with NASA funding