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SpaceX to Deorbit the ISS: NASA's Step Towards the Future of Space Exploration

international space station

NASA has selected SpaceX to develop and deliver the United States' deorbit vehicle, which will be responsible for safely deorbiting the International Space Station (ISS) in 2030. This monumental task, part of a contract worth $843 million, underscores NASA's commitment to ensuring a controlled and safe conclusion to the ISS mission, avoiding any risk to populated areas on Earth.

The Deorbit Vehicle: Based on Dragon Heritage Design

Bill Spetch, NASA's operations integration manager for the ISS program, confirmed that the deorbit vehicle will be based on SpaceX's Dragon Heritage design. Once developed, NASA will take ownership of this spacecraft and operate it throughout the mission. This vehicle will play a critical role in the ISS's final descent, ensuring that it safely breaks up upon re-entry into Earth's atmosphere.

Controlled Re-Entry: A Safe Conclusion

According to a new white paper released by NASA, the plan involves using Earth's natural atmospheric drag to slow the ISS down and bring it into a lower orbit. Once the final crew has been evacuated, the deorbit vehicle will fire a large re-entry burn, providing the necessary push into the atmosphere. The majority of the ISS structure will burn up, with any remaining debris falling into the ocean.

Why Destroy the ISS?

The decision to destroy the ISS rather than preserving the $1 trillion structure stems from several considerations. Pushing the station into a higher orbit was deemed too expensive, challenging, and dangerous due to the current amount of space debris at those altitudes. By deorbiting the ISS, NASA aims to mitigate these risks and pave the way for future commercial endeavors in low Earth orbit.

The ISS Legacy: A Platform for Scientific Research

For 24 years, the ISS has been continuously crewed, serving as a unique platform for scientific research in microgravity. Over 3,300 experiments have been conducted onboard, benefiting thousands of researchers worldwide. From Earth and space sciences to biology, human physiology, and physical sciences, the ISS has significantly advanced our understanding of various fields.

What's Next After the ISS?

The end of the ISS marks the beginning of a new era in space exploration. Axiom Space is set to launch the Axiom Station, initially attached to the ISS in 2026 and later becoming its own station. This innovative station will nearly double the usable volume of the ISS, providing space for research, manufacturing, and hosting astronauts.

In addition, Nanoracks, Voyager Space, and Lockheed Martin are collaborating on StarLab, an inflatable habitat module set to launch in 2027. StarLab will host up to four crew members, continuing the legacy of the ISS and representing a significant leap in our journey to explore and inhabit outer space.

The Future of Low Earth Orbit

As we bid farewell to the ISS, the future of low Earth orbit looks promising. These new stations, driven by commercial endeavors, will continue to push the boundaries of scientific research and technological innovation. NASA's partnership with SpaceX and other private companies highlights the collaborative spirit necessary to advance human space exploration.


NASA's selection of SpaceX to deorbit the ISS marks a significant milestone in space exploration history. As we look forward to the next chapter, the legacy of the ISS will live on through new and innovative space stations, ensuring that the pursuit of knowledge and discovery continues to thrive in the microgravity of low Earth orbit.

For more updates on space exploration and the latest in scientific research, stay tuned to our blog. The future of space is bright, and we are excited to share this journey with you.

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