NASA has chose SpaceX to build space station deorbit vehicle

The International Space Station can't stay up there forever. NASA has just announced that SpaceX will build a de-orbiting vehicle to get the ISS to burn up in the atmosphere safely. That controlled re-entry is set for 2030.

Space expert Dr. Ken Kremer said the ISS had been going strong since 1998, but it was showing its age, and NASA was planning its last missions. 

"It's something that has to be done. Unfortunately, the space station will come to an end," he said. "We're trying to get as much science out of the space station before it ends. Because it's the proving ground."

In 2030, NASA said they would destroy the space station by directing it downward toward Earth, and most of it would burn up in the sky. However, the ISS is a huge spacecraft, and space expert David Denault said NASA needed to ensure it came down in the right spot. 

"This is massive," he said. "This could cause a lot of damage if it did not burn up in the atmosphere. So they want a vehicle that can take the space station and push it into a deorbit burn so it will come in at a point where it will not damage or basically kill someone."

Denault and Kremer said the southern Indian or Pacific oceans would be logical places for debris to fall. The SpaceX de-orbiter would act like a tow truck or tugboat to guide the ISS into the right position over our planet. 

"The whole project here is to find a spacecraft that can move the space station to a point and then fire their rockets in a controlled burn right to an exact, specific location," Denault said.

NASA said that after the ISS came down, the agency relied on private companies like Axiom to provide space stations in orbit and beyond.