SpaceX receives $843 million contract from NASA to de-orbit ISS in 2030

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NASA has selected SpaceX to develop a spacecraft that will leave orbit around the International Space Station in 2030 — a contract worth $843 million, the agency announced Wednesday.

The ISS is nearing the end of its operational life, and as plans for new, commercially owned space stations move forward, the station that started it all will have to be safely decommissioned at the end of the decade.

Very few details have been released so far about the US Deorbit Vehicle, as NASA calls it. However, NASA clarified that the vehicle will be different from SpaceX’s Dragon capsule, which delivers cargo and crew to the station, and other vehicles that provide services for the agency. Unlike these vehicles, which are built and operated by SpaceX, NASA will take ownership of the US Deorbit Vehicle after its development and operate it throughout its mission.

Both the spacecraft and the ISS will break up catastrophically upon re-entry into the atmosphere, and one of the big tasks ahead for SpaceX is to ensure that the station re-enters in a way that does not threaten any populated areas.

The launch contract for the US deorbit vehicle will be announced separately.

NASA and its partners were evaluating using the Russian Roscosmos Progress spacecraft to carry out the de-orbit mission, but studies indicated that a new spacecraft was needed for the de-orbit maneuver. The safe destruction of the station is the shared responsibility of the five space agencies working on the ISS – NASA, the Canadian Space Agency, the European Space Agency, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency and the State Space Corporation Roscosmos – but it is unclear whether this contract amount is being paid by all countries.

TechCrunch has reached out to NASA for more information and will update this post if we hear back.

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