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Anyone want an International Space Station? Slightly used

NASA expects to spend about $1 billion to bring it down safely

NASA expects to spend around $1 billion to deorbit the International Space Station as the orbiting laboratory reaches its end of service in the 2030s.

A report [PDF] released this week shows NASA will continue to support projects on the ISS, but is also looking towards building a new space lab and retiring the current model. 

Officials have asked the White House for $228 million to build commercial space stations with US aerospace partners, and $180 million to build a deorbit module to take apart the ISS, pull it out of orbit, and dispose of its components over the Earth's oceans. 

Kathy Lueders, NASA's human spaceflight chief, explained that the costs for the whole project were estimated to be "a little short of about $1 billion."

NASA is hoping that it'll be able to reduce costs by encouraging private aerospace operators to compete for contracts or request for proposals (RFPs) to build the deorbit module. "Our goal is to go out with an RFP, and then, obviously, when we get the proposals, then we're hoping to get a better price than that," she added.

The ISS is made up of multiple different modules that together span over 109 meters (356 feet) from one end to the other. Other agencies that have taken part in the spacecraft's activities – like Russia's Roscosmos – will also be responsible for disposing of their own parts safely. NASA has previously said it will work together with Roscosmos to deorbit the ISS using its Progress cargo spacecraft.

"We are also developing this US capability as a way to have redundancy and be able to better aid the targeting of the vehicle and the safe return of the vehicle, especially as we're adding more modules," Lueders explained.

The largest portion of the budget NASA has requested will go towards its flagship Artemis mission. The space agency reckons it needs $8.1 billion to continue to work towards sending the first woman and next man to the Moon. Humans have not set foot on the Moon for over a half a century. NASA believes exploring and building infrastructure for humans to live on the Moon is a vital stepping stone to being able to venture further out into the Solar System. 

NASA administrator Bill Nelson waxed lyrical: "President Biden's budget will help us explore new cosmic shores, continue to make strides in traveling to and working in space and on the Moon, increase the speed and safety of air travel with cutting-edge technologies, and help protect our planet and improve lives here on Earth." ®

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