Elon Musk Hired To Destroy International Space Station

By Douglas Helm | Published

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NASA is bringing on Elon Musk’s SpaceX company to take the International Space Station out of orbit. The contract is valued at around $843 million and will see SpaceX developing a vehicle that can push the ISS out of orbit and into the Pacific Ocean. The project and the actual de-orbit is expected to take place early in the next decade.

It’s Safer Than Leaving Things To Chance

international space station (1)
The International Space Station

Before Elon Musk’s SpaceX removes the International Space Station from space, the station will continue to serve its usual functions. According to engineers, the lab is still structurally sound and able to continue on, but without a controlled deorbit, it would be at risk for falling back to Earth on its own and potentially hitting a populated area.

Instead, the decommissioned ship will be brought to a remote area of the Pacific to ensure safety.

The ISS Has Been A Gift

international space station NASA

Although Elon Musk’s SpaceX company will need to bring the International Space Station’s life to an end, the historic station has been a massive boon to the global scientific community.

The station is a collaborative effort between the nations of Europe, the United States, Russia, Canada, and Japan, and was completed in 1998, with the station being continually occupied since 2000. NASA also approved its continued use until 2030, so there is still plenty of research to be done before it’s finally decommissioned.

The Most Cost-Effective Option

As for what NASA and Elon Musk’s SpaceX company will do with the International Space Station after disposal, there are a few options.

Originally, NASA had looked into options for disassembling the station or allowing a commercial company to take over ownership, but that would involve figuring out the rights each country has for the space station.

In other words, the deorbit option is presumably the least complicated and most cost-effective.

The Vehicle

Elon Musk’s SpaceX company will design a space tug-boat of sorts for the International Space Station, which will need enough thrust to pull the station out of orbit and to its final resting place at Point Nemo.

It’s also likely that some of the ISS will survive re-entry, so those parts may be able to be recycled and reused. While the target date for deorbit is still pretty far away, it’ll be interesting to see what kind of vehicle is designed to take on this mission.


After Elon Musk’s SpaceX company pulls the International Space Station down, NASA is hoping that private companies will fill the gap by launching commercial space stations in the upcoming years. It makes sense that NASA would want to shift this to private companies, considering the estimated cost of upkeep for the ISS is somewhere in the ballpark of $3 billion, which equates to roughly one-third of NASA’s annual human spaceflight budget.

Freeing up this $3 billion would let NASA put that money toward other human space flight endeavors, like more manned missions to the Moon and, eventually, a manned mission to Mars.

But Elon Musk’s SpaceX company helping to decommission the International Space Station doesn’t mean we won’t have a NASA space station in the future. NASA and the other countries are currently working on a station called Gateway. This station will orbit the Moon and will play a big role in future deep space missions.

Source: BBC