Some say the world will end in fire, Some say in ice…..
The International Space Station (ISS) will die soon: killed off by lack of support to keep it running and its aging infrastructure. It has a few years left, but will be decommissioned in the next decade for sure.
The plan is to have a controlled de-orbit with the main mass of the station landing in the ocean far away from people. An end in fire.
It has cost billions of dollars to get the ISS into low earth orbit, so why bring it down? Doesn’t make more sense to push it into a higher orbit where it could be turned off, parked and “mined” for parts and metal (cheaper than mining an asteroid)? An end in icy cold of space.
Well, that was not an option when the ISS was planned and launched. But it should at least be a consideration now. Technologies like the so called quantum rocket engine, would allow the ISS to be slowly pushed into a higher orbit using just electricity generated from solar power. This seems like the perfect real world test of such a system.
Even without the use of advanced technology, it is getting cheaper and cheaper to get massive amounts of rocket fuel into orbit. Private rocket companies like SpaceX, RocketLab and Blue Origin are making it cheaper to get fuel into orbit. New rockets like SpaceX’s BFR will be coming online in the coming years with enormous carrying capacities. These re-usable rockets could be used to push the ISS into a higher orbit or to deliver the fuel to rockets that could make the push into higher orbit.
It is time to rethink how the ISS should end.
I hold with those that favor ice.