How to burn the International Space Station

International Space Station In The Rays Of Red Sun. 3D Illustration.

It took NASA and its partners nearly forty flights between 1998 and 2010 to move nearly 900,000 pounds of various units into the $100 billion orbit of the International Space Station. But by the end of this decade, more than 30 years after the first component of the ISS broke the atmosphere, the ISS will reach the end of its venerable life and be decommissioned in favor of A new, privately-run cadre of orbital research stations.


The problem NASA has is what to do with the International Space Station once it’s officially closed, because we can’t leave it in place. Without regular charges of reactant propellant to keep the station on course, the ISS’s orbit will eventually deteriorate to the point where forward momentum is insufficient to overcome the effects of air cloudsThen he returned to Earth. So, instead of waiting for the ISS to de-orbit on its own, or leave it where it is For Russians to use as target practiceInstead, NASA will drop the station from a height, as Vader Palpatine did.

NASA is no stranger to Disposal of waste by air incineration. The space agency has long relied on it for trash disposal, spent launch vehicles, and abandoned satellites. Both the American satellite stations Skylab and the Russian Mir were shut down in this way.

Skylab was the first space station in America, for 24 weeks it was in use. When the last crew of 3 astronauts departed in early 1974, the station was finally boosted to 6.8 miles farther in Cemetery’s orbit is 289 miles long. It was expected to remain there until the 1980s when increased solar activity from the 11-year solar cycle finally dragged it into the fiery ingress. However, astronomers miscalculated the relative strength of this solar event, leading to Skylab’s demise in 1979.

In 1978, NASA toyed with the idea of ​​using its soon-to-be-completed space shuttle to help propel Skylab into higher orbit, but abandoned the plan when it became clear that the shuttle wouldn’t finish in time, due to acceleration. re-entry table. The agency also rejected a proposal to blow up the station with missiles while it was still in orbit. The station eventually fell on July 11, 1979, although it did not burn up in the atmosphere as quickly as NASA expected. This caused some Quite large pieces of wreckage to overtake its intended Indian Ocean target southeast of South Africa and instead land in Perth, Australia. Although NASA calculated a 1 in 152 chance that a piece of the lab could hit someone while it was de-orbiting, no injuries were reported.

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Durbet Meyer went more smoothly. After 15 years of service, it was dropped on March 23, 2001 in three stages. First, its orbit was allowed to deteriorate to an altitude of 140 miles. Next, the Progress M1-5 spacecraft — an attachable rocket specifically designed to help clear the station’s orbit — docked with Mir. Then, it ignited its engine for just over 22 minutes to precisely position Mir on a distant expanse of the Pacific Ocean, east of Fiji.

As for the imminent demise of the International Space Station, NASA has a plan — or at least a good idea — for what will happen. “We’ve done a lot of studies,” said Kirk Shereman, deputy program manager for NASA’s Space Station, Tell in 2011. “We’ve found an orbit and a velocity change that we think is achievable, creating a debris trail that’s entirely in the water in an uninhabited area.”

According to NASA standards – specifically NASA-STD-8719.14A, Orbital Debris Reduction Operation The risk of casualties on the ground is limited to less than 1 in 10,000 (<0.0001). However, A 1998 study conducted by the ISs . Mission Integration Office I found that an uncontrolled return would carry an unacceptable hit probability of 0.024 to .077 (2 in 100 to 8 in 100). A number of controllable shutdown alternatives have been discussed for decades, including pushing the International Space Station further into orbit in the event of an unexpected evacuation of the station’s crew.

“We’ve been working on the plans and updating the plans periodically,” Shereman continued. “We don’t want to be in a situation where we can’t safely de-orbit the station. It’s been part of the program from the start.”

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Starting about a year before its planned shutdown date, NASA will allow the International Space Station to begin to degrade from its normal 240-mile orbit and send an unmanned spacecraft (USV) to dock with the station and help propel it back toward Earth. The final crew will be evacuated from the International Space Station just before the station reaches an altitude of 115 miles, at which point the connected USV will launch its rockets in a series of non-orbital burns to set the station on its pickup path over the Pacific Ocean.

NASA has not yet decided which USV will be hired. 2019 plan approved by the NASA Safety Council, as soon as possibleRoscosmos must prepare and send another Progress spacecraft to do what it did with Mir. However, this vehicle may not actually be available when the ISS is set to land due to Russia’s commitment to the ISS program ends in 2024. In April of last year, Russian state media is starting to make a fuss that the state will completely abandon the station by 2025Parts of this station will likely be stripped for reuse on its next national station, leaving the International Space Station without a reliable way to break the orbit. The European Space Agency’s robotic transport vehicle or NASA’s Orion multipurpose vehicle, although still in development, are potential alternatives to advance.

“NASA continues to work with its international partners to ensure a safe de-orbit plan for the station and is considering a number of options,” spokeswoman Leah Cheshire said. UPI via email in 2021, refusing to elaborate on what those options might entail but adding that any de-orbiting mission would be “shared by the ISS partnership and would be sensitive to negotiation at this time.”

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The fall of the International Space Station is sure to be an equal sight The international clamor surrounding the demise of Skylab, but it is still nearly a decade away and there is still a lot of science to be done. according to January 2022 Move to the International Space Station Transfer:

The International Space Station is now entering its third and most productive decade of use, including research advancement, commercial value and global partnership. The first decade of the ISS was devoted to assembly, and the second decade was devoted to research, technological development and learning how to more effectively conduct these activities in space. The third decade is the decade in which NASA aims to validate human exploration and research technologies to support deep space exploration, continue to bring back medical and environmental benefits to humanity, continue to demonstrate US leadership in low Earth orbit through international partnerships, and lay the foundation for the future commercialization of LEO.

More than half of the experiments conducted on the International Space Station nowadays are for non-NASA users, according to the report — including nearly two dozen commercial facilities — “hundreds of experiments from other government agencies, academia, and commercial users to bring benefits back to people.” and industry on the ground. This influx of tropical commercial activity is expected to increase – and is actively encouraged – over the next few years so that humanity can collectively realize Jeff Bezos’ dream of building A mixed-use business complex in low Earth orbit.

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