NASA Awards $843 Million Contract to SpaceX for International Space Station De-Orbiting Mission


NASA has selected SpaceX to develop a spacecraft designed to de-orbit the International Space Station (ISS) in 2030, a contract valued at up to $843 million. The agency announced the decision on Wednesday, marking a significant milestone in the ISS’s eventual decommissioning.

The U.S. Deorbit Vehicle, as NASA has dubbed the spacecraft, will be a unique entity, distinct from SpaceX’s Dragon capsule and other vehicles that perform services for the agency. While these vehicles are built and operated by SpaceX, NASA will take ownership of the U.S. Deorbit Vehicle after development and operate it throughout its mission.

One of the primary objectives of the U.S. Deorbit Vehicle is to ensure a safe re-entry into the Earth’s atmosphere, with the station and spacecraft breaking apart in a way that poses no threat to populated areas. NASA and its partners have been evaluating the use of a Russian Roscosmos Progress spacecraft for the de-orbit mission, but studies have indicated that a new spacecraft is necessary for the task.

The launch contract for the U.S. Deorbit Vehicle will be announced separately. The ISS’s safe decommissioning is a shared responsibility among the five space agencies that operate on the station, including NASA, the Canadian Space Agency, European Space Agency, Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, and State Space Corporation Roscosmos. However, it remains unclear whether the contract amount will be paid out by all countries.

Aria Alamalhodaei
Aria Alamalhodaei
Aria Alamalhodaei covers the space and defense industries. Previously, she covered the public utilities and the power grid for California Energy Markets. You can also find her work at MIT’s Undark Magazine, The Verge, and Discover Magazine. She received an MA in art history from the Courtauld Institute of Art in London. Aria is based in Austin, Texas.

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