NASA has announced its plans to hire U.S. companies to develop a vehicle that will enable the deorbiting of the International Space Station (ISS). The agency launched a request for proposals (RFP) last week on the U.S. government’s electronic procurement portal, SAM.gov. The vehicle, known as the U.S. Deorbit Vehicle (USDV), will be responsible for safely returning the ISS back to Earth.
The USDV will be either a completely new design or a modification of an existing spacecraft that must successfully complete its first flight and have the capability to recover from anomalies to ensure a critical deorbit burn can be performed. NASA aims for privately owned and operated platforms to take over low Earth orbit (LEO) operations by the deadline of 2030.
Before issuing the RFP, NASA had considered using Roscosmos’ Progress spacecraft for deorbit operations. However, the agency now believes that a solution with a new spacecraft would provide more robust capabilities. The deorbit vehicle will need to dock with the ISS at least one year before the planned reentry date to allow for testing and review.
Once the vehicle is docked, it will gradually reduce the altitude of the ISS through atmospheric drag or propulsive maneuvers. The final deorbit burn will result in controlled reentry within a predefined corridor. The deorbit vehicle will be responsible for providing delta-v and attitude control during these critical events.
While NASA focuses on transitioning to human missions on the Moon and Mars, the agency recognizes the importance of the ISS for scientific research. Experiments conducted in microgravity on the ISS have contributed to fundamental research and have the potential to advance multiple disciplines.
As NASA progresses in its plan to commercialize LEO operations, international cooperation between partners such as ESA, JAXA, and Roscosmos remains essential for the future of space exploration.
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– NASA Releases Request for Proposals for Deorbit Vehicle to Bring International Space Station Safely Back to Earth