In January 2031, the International Space Station (ISS) will bewhich will lower its altitude until it enters the . The announced end of the ISS obviously does not mean the cessation of human activities in low orbit. Quite the contrary. A new era in the commercialization and use of low orbit is shaping up with several projects for commercial and private stations dedicated mainly to scientific research, medicine, technology and tourism.
According to NASA’s plans, the ISS will be “replaced” by one or more stations of which NASA would be one of the clients. It therefore has no plans to build a new. On the contrary, it wishes to pursue its strategy of commercialization of low orbit started at the beginning of the 2010s with the COTS and CCDev programs, which have enabled the private freight and crew transport service to the ISS.
For some years, NASA has been working to facilitate the development of commercial space stations to succeed the ISS in order to allow the continuity of the presence ofAmericans in low orbit. She started the program Commercial Low Earth Orbit Destinations (CLD) at the end of which it undertakes to become a customer of one or more space stations operated by private companies for a sufficiently attractive amount to perpetuate the activity of these stations. With this program, NASA estimates that it could save $1.3 billion per year from 2031 and up to $1.8 billion from 2033.
As part of the CLD program, three projects are supported by NASA.
- The project Starlab carried by the group of companies made up of Nanoracks, Voyager Space and Lockheed Martin. With a capacity of four people, the Starlab station has the particularity that it will be deployed during a single launch scheduled for 2027. It is designed to accommodate four astronauts and will have an equivalent power, volume and payload capacity. to the International Space Station. NASA awarded him a $160 million contract.
- The project Orbital Reef carried by the group of companies made up of Blue Origin, Sierra Space, Boeing, Redwire Space, Genesis Engineering and Arizona State University. Her should also start in 2021. It is designed to accommodate up to 10 people. It received $130 million in funding.
- The third project is that of Northrop Grumman and Dynetics which for the moment has no name. The two companies received $125.6 million. This station will mainly use modules derived from the Cygnus cargo ship .
In Europe, studies of post-ISS concepts
On the European side, we are obviously not standing idly by. The European Space Agency (), which does not have the same resources as NASA, has nevertheless launched a call for ideas from European industrialists to clear the ground.
The ESA, which has just started to define a strategy in low orbit, should decide during its next ministerial council (November 2022) to finance studies of post-ISS concepts on the basis of industrial proposals. These studies will be used to guide Europe’s choices, either towards the creation of its own station, or towards participation in one of the private American programs, and in this case, like NASA, towards the purchase of orbital services.
Here are the 3 NASA projects for the future American space station
Futura article with the ETX Daily Up agency published on 07/12/2021
While the dismantling of the international space station could begin as early as 2025, NASA has selected three projects to succeed the ISS. Private partnerships that allow Americans to maintain their presence in space.
While the International Space Station is probably living its last years, the American space agency announces that it has selected three projects for new stations to continue to have an American presence in low orbit. NASA’s goal here is to encourage initiatives that combine both scientific research and.
For commercial activities
The first project is signed by Blue Origin, the company ofwho can already be proud of having carried out the first manned flights for “space tourists” via son . Blue Origin, associated with presents Orbital Reef, a destined to be commercially exploited from the second half of this decade.
Among the partners of this very ambitious project is Boeing. The project was designed to provide all the necessary infrastructure for all types of manned flight activities, American or international, in low orbit. It thus provides for various accommodations and vehicle docking ports.
For research activities
Another project is the work of, in association with Voyager Space and Lockheed Martin. It is called Starlab and its launch is scheduled for 2027, in a single flight. This is a commercial space station project with a permanent crew, responsible in particular for conducting advanced research in of biology and . This relatively compact station is designed to accommodate four astronauts. These research activities will not prevent the parallel development of commercial activities there, knowing that the station could very well expand with time and demands.
A future modular and expandable station
Finally, the third project selected by NASA is that of, in the form of a modular station for commercial use. Its design is based on elements proven in flight, like its space cargo ship which delivers cargo to the International Space Station. The capacities of this future station are expected to be varied, whether in terms of science, industrial experimentation and tourism. Its multiple docking ports will allow future expansion of the station, again depending on demand.
Through all these projects supported today, NASA’s objective is to maintain an American presence in space after the end of the adventure of the International Space Station, the dismantling of which could begin as early as 2025. And this is just one of manyto come from NASA, which must also send back as part of his before considering doing the same, later, around Mars.