Although relations between Washington and Moscow are abysmal, surprisingly those between the space agencies of the United States and Russia, as far as the International Space Station is concerned, are cordial. It is also one of the latest civil cooperation links between the two superpowers.
As evidence, in July, NASA and Roscosmos announced the resumption of service flights to the ISS with mixed crews. Specifically, two American astronauts will fly aboard a vehicleduring two separate missions, the first of which is scheduled for September and two The Russians will join the ISS on board of SpaceX in 2023, the first!
That said, if the Russian-Ukrainian conflict does not seem to call into question, for the time being, the technical cooperation between the two agencies, the United States must have a contingency plan to avoid an escape scenario that could see the Russians abandon the Station. and leave it as it is.
But, let’s be objective, this is not the scenario that seems to be taking shape. Since Dmitry Rogozin was removed from his post, the new head of the Russian space agency, Yuri Borissov, has spoken in a much less vindictive and provocative way than his predecessor. It certainly meant that Russiaafter 2024, without specifying the date, but underlining that this withdrawal would be carried out in ” strict compliance [ses] obligations “It should be noted that the ISS statute requires all partners to give one year’s notice of their intention to leave the program.
A deorbitant spacecraft operational as soon as possible
It is in this uncertain context about the future of the ISS that the United States wishes to acquire an operational capability to deorbit the Station as soon as possible. You should know that NASA and its partners in the ISS evaluated different deorbit scenarios and came to the conclusion that three Russian Progress cargo ships were enough to “do the job” and deorbit the ISS safely.
Alone, the American freighters Dragon and Cygnus are unable to do this. They weren’t designed for that either. Once considered to “pilot” the station, Northrop Grumman’s freighter Cygnus is only capable of relaunching the station, which already isn’t bad. However, it could be used, with extended propulsion capabilities, as a support for Progress.
During the summer, therefore, NASA released ato industrialists and beyond Americans to find a way to deorbit the Space Station without the help of Russian merchant ships. Specifically, NASA would like to have a spacecraft developed for this single purpose. Ideally, this vehicle should reach the Station one year before the date of its exit from orbit.
Before diving into theabove the memo point, a giant space cemetery in the Pacific Ocean, the ISS would be gradually brought into an elliptical orbit of 145 x 200 kilometers to minimize the period during which the station has to rely on various merchant ships for control. of the trim. From this position, the vehicle would turn on its propulsion system one last time to lower the at 50 kilometers, ensuring the “atmospheric capture” of the which will precipitate it into the earth’s atmosphere where it should be consumed.
The manufacturers will submit their proposal to NASA on September 9.