SpaceX scores $843M NASA contract to de-orbit ISS in 2030



NASA has chosen SpaceX to create a spacecraft designed to de-orbit the International Space Station in 2030, with the contract potentially worth up to $843 million, the agency announced on Wednesday.

As the ISS approaches the end of its operational life and plans for new commercial space stations progress, it will eventually need to be safely disposed of by the end of the decade.

Details about the U.S. Deorbit Vehicle, as NASA has named the craft, are still sparse. However, NASA has specified that this vehicle will differ from SpaceX’s Dragon capsule, which currently delivers cargo and crew to the ISS, as well as other spacecraft that serve the agency. Unlike these vehicles, which are built and operated by SpaceX, NASA will assume ownership of the U.S. Deorbit Vehicle after its development and will operate it throughout its mission.

Both the U.S. Deorbit Vehicle and the ISS will break apart as they reenter Earth’s atmosphere. A significant challenge for SpaceX will be ensuring that the ISS reenters in a way that poses no danger to populated areas.

The launch contract for the U.S. Deorbit Vehicle will be announced separately.

NASA and its international partners had considered using a Russian Roscosmos Progress spacecraft for the de-orbit mission. However, studies concluded that a new spacecraft was necessary for the maneuver. The responsibility for safely decommissioning the ISS is shared among the five space agencies involved in its operation — NASA, the Canadian Space Agency, the European Space Agency, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, and the State Space Corporation Roscosmos. It remains unclear whether the contract amount is being funded collectively by all participating countries.