The agency shared details of its plans in the International Space Station Transition Report, which revealed it intends to crash the ISS into the Pacific at the end of 2031.
NASA intends to help private and commercial sectors get established by the late 2020s before bringing the ISS into a deorbit, a decision that comes shortly after the recent announcement by President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris‘ administration to expand the ISS’ mission to 2030 for its final year of mission.
The ISS will, at that point, have been working in space for more than 30 years, having initially launched in 1998 and continued to provide astronomers with information about the universe surrounding planet Earth.
In December 2021, NASA announced it reached agreements with three companies to develop commercial LEO destinations in space as part of funded Space Act Agreements.
The funded agreements totaled $415.6 million and will be distributed as listed below:
- Blue Origin of Kent, Washington will receive $130 million.
- Nanoracks LLC, of Houston will receive $160 million.
- Northrop Grumman Systems Corporation of Dulles, Virginia will receive $125.6 million.
“Building on our successful initiatives to partner with private industry to deliver cargo, and now our NASA astronauts, to the International Space Station, NASA is once again leading the way to commercialize space activities,” said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson in the December 2021 news release. “With commercial companies now providing transportation to low-Earth orbit in place, we are partnering with U.S. companies to develop the space destinations where people can visit, live, and work, enabling NASA to continue forging a path in space for the benefit of humanity while fostering commercial activity in space.”
NASA will need at least one CLD to be capable of replacing the ISS’ ongoing space duties, while also considering the health and status of the ISS, before making a transition.
The agency said it intends to have overlap between the CLDs launching and deorbiting the ISS, but once the ISS is ready, it will be crashed at Point Nemo, which has served as a graveyard for hundreds of spacecrafts after missions along the Pacific Ocean previously.