NASA Plans to Deorbit the International Space Station in 2031



The International Space Station has been in low earth orbit for over 20 years.

Will Carney, Staff Writer

The International Space Station has been a staple for space exploration, but in 2031, that will all come to an end.            

The International Space Station is a modular space station that is in low-earth orbit about 294 miles above the Earth. The first piece of the station was put into orbit in November of 1998 and the first crew arrived in November of 2000. The ISS is over 900,000 pounds and is about a football field in length according to NASA.

The station is comprised of various space agencies which have permission to do their studies there. These space programs include NASA, Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, European Space Agency, the Canadian Space Agency, and Roscosmos (Russia). 

Many science experiments take place on the station. Salads, radishes, and chile peppers have all been grown and eaten on the ISS. NASA has also realized some of the effects on the body of going to space. 

Furthermore, NASA conducts spacewalks on the International Space Station. On these spacewalks astronauts typically make much-needed external repairs to the station. 

One of the main reasons why NASA plans to deorbit the ISS is because of its massive price to operate. For over 20 years since the ISS has been in orbit, it has cost about $150 billion to develop which makes it the most expensive thing ever built. On average, it costs about $4 billion to operate per year according to 

The station needs to be refueled every so often to keep its orbit at the proper inclination. If the station is not constantly revising its orbit, it would eventually be pulled down by the earth’s gravity and atmosphere.

When reentering the atmosphere, spacecraft face extreme heat. Therefore, if a spacecraft does not have a thermal protection system, it will burn up.

In 2031, when the station is deorbited, the station will burn up in Earth’s atmosphere and create scorching hot fragments. According to a report by NASA, scientists plan to have the station crash into the place known as Point Nemo in the Pacific Ocean. Point Nemo, known as the “spacecraft cemetery” is a common place for decommissioned spacecraft and debris to splash down in.

Although the world will lose the ISS within the next decade, there are plans to construct a new one. NASA has already selected three companies to develop designs of future space stations to replace the ISS. Those companies include Blue Origin, Nanoracks LLC, and Northrop Grumman.

Axiom Space has also begun to develop its own commercial space station. Axiom plans to launch the first piece of the station in 2024 according to their website. 

The International Space Station changed human spaceflight forever for the better and its decommission from active use marks the end of a significant chapter in the history of space exploration.