ISS to be sunk after 2020: Russian space agency

Jul 27, 2011
The International Space Station (ISS)

Russia and its partners plan to plunge the International Space Station (ISS) into the ocean at the end of its life cycle after 2020 so as not to leave space junk, its space agency said Wednesday.

"After it completes its existence, we will be forced to sink the ISS. It cannot be left in orbit, it's too complex, too heavy an object, it can leave behind lots of rubbish," said deputy head of Roskosmos Vitaly Davydov.

"Right now we've agreed with our partners that the station will be used until approximately 2020," he said in comments released on Wednesday.

is becoming an increasingly serious headache.

A piece of narrowly missed the space station last month in a rare incident that forced the six-member crew to scramble to their rescue craft.

The ISS, which orbits 350 kilometres (220 miles) above Earth, is a sophisticated platform for scientific experiments bringing together space agencies from Russia, the United States, Europe, Japan, and Canada.

Launched in 1998, the ISS was initially expected to remain in space for 15 years until an agreement was reached to keep it operating through 2020.

By going into a watery grave, the ISS will repeat the fate of its predecessor space station Mir, which Russia sank in the Pacific Ocean in 2001 after 15 years of service.

Moscow this month proclaimed the beginning of "the era of the Soyuz" after the US shuttle's last flight left the Russian system as the sole means for delivering astronauts to the ISS.

Russia is currently developing a new to replace the which is single-use, except for the section in which spacemen return to Earth, said Davydov.

Tests of the ship will begin after 2015 and it will have "elements of multi-use whose level will be much higher than they are today," he said, adding that Russia will compete with the United States in building the new-generation ship.

"We'll race each other."

Davydov said it remains unclear what will come after the ISS and whether mankind will see the need for a replacement orbiting close to Earth.

"Lots of our tasks are still linked to circumterrestrial space," he said, while adding that a new could be used as a base for building complexes that will explore deeper into space.

"I cannot rule out that it will be used to put together, create the complexes that in the future will fly to the Moon and Mars," he said, stressing that "a serious exploration" could not be done without manned flights.

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User comments : 47

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Nikola
4.7 / 5 (7) Jul 27, 2011
sad
Waterdog
1.9 / 5 (10) Jul 27, 2011
Why are the Russians deciding what to do with the ISS? We supplied over half of the modules for construction and most of the money that went into building it.
FrankHerbert
3.9 / 5 (19) Jul 27, 2011
2020 is longer than originally planned. This is GOOD news. By 2020 there should be more space stations anyway. Private and public. ISS SHOULD be hopelessly outdated by then.

It's like your eyes cross the word "Russia" and your brain completely shuts down.
Eric_B
1.7 / 5 (18) Jul 27, 2011
it was space junk when the first module was launched.

or, did i miss something? i saw the pics from hubble and heard about discoveries thta it was used to make.

how many/what came out of this THING?!?

...oh, no, not another one!

can't we PLLEEESSSEEE build a base on the moon? will aliens chase us off of it?
ChiefOfGxBxL
5 / 5 (6) Jul 27, 2011
Nice article, but this information was already established for a while now. Although it is sad, everyone knew this day would come -- it's not like suddenly they cut the ISS for some random reason. To Waterdog's comment: the Russians agreed to this, but it was also agreed by NASA and possibly the ESO. This article should give more credit to the US; after all, it was Obama who extended the life of the ISS until 2020. I didn't know Russia was also planning on creating a new space vehicle for 2015. The competition should liven things up and help speed up the process.
Vendicar_Decarian
1.7 / 5 (15) Jul 27, 2011
"We supplied over half of the modules for construction and most of the money that went into building it." - WaterDog

Ya, but you didn't build them to last. And your nation will have disintegrated into several countries by 2020.
Vendicar_Decarian
1.8 / 5 (5) Jul 27, 2011
"It's like your eyes cross the word "Russia" and your brain completely shuts down." - Frank Herbert

I have the same problem when I see the name "Ludia Palinova"

http://claritaslu...ssia.jpg
mitcheroo
4.7 / 5 (11) Jul 27, 2011
Why not park the ISS (or at least a useful section) in a "cold-storage" orbit around the moon? It would be a good opportunity to trial-run a large ion engine, and pre-position a possible stepping-stone for future manned lunar missions.

"Sink the ISS"--what an ignominious waste!
that_guy
5 / 5 (8) Jul 27, 2011
Why not park the ISS (or at least a useful section) in a "cold-storage" orbit around the moon? It would be a good opportunity to trial-run a large ion engine, and pre-position a possible stepping-stone for future manned lunar missions.

"Sink the ISS"--what an ignominious waste!

Whoa!!! Do you realize how much fuel that would take? The idea of going to the moon is travel lightly, and, for a base, use the materials at hand. Also, it isn't really optimized to be helpful for a moon mission.

Second, a space station is like a car, as it gets older, it needs more and more maintenance. Putting it around the moon would not solve the problem - it would create a deathtrap by putting spare parts farther away.

I do wish that they would start thinking about reusability, like with the bigelow modules. They should make 'em easy to retrofit and replace - each module has valuable real estate.
Sanescience
4.4 / 5 (5) Jul 27, 2011
There is no ion engine or otherwise that is going to get the ISS to orbit the moon. That and the structure couldn't handle the stresses if you did manage to make an engine that could. And "cold-storage" around the moon would mean leaving the relative protection of the earths magnetic field that deflects significant quantities of hyper-velocity charged particles that the ISS is not built to handle.
FrankHerbert
2.2 / 5 (6) Jul 27, 2011
Honestly, I love that moon station idea, but it would be so costly to maintain. The ISS requires regular boosts in orbit from things like the space shuttle to stay in orbit. We'd have to send out a couple Saturn V's a year just to keep the thing from crashing into the Moon. I do like the idea though.
that_guy
5 / 5 (6) Jul 27, 2011
@sane - They are testing Vasimir on the space station in the next year or two. Yes, I realize that this invalidates one of my previous statements.
@frank - The space station needs boosts primarily because of atmospheric drag of the upper atmosphere (The thermosphere). The moon has no appreciable atmosphere.
Nik_2213
4.8 / 5 (5) Jul 27, 2011
Um, they could sell it off ??
BlankVellum
4.3 / 5 (6) Jul 27, 2011
i saw the pics from hubble and heard about discoveries thta it was used to make.

how many/what came out of this THING?!?


A huge amount of valuable scientific research actually. See here:

http://www.nasa.g...ory.html

The ISS is a scientific gem and it will incredibly sad to see it come to the end of its remit.
Cave_Man
4.2 / 5 (5) Jul 27, 2011
What I want to know is why they dont just park it in a much higher orbit or in some other safe orbit somewhere so as not to be so damn wasteful not to mention there is alot of shit aboard and weight takes money to get up there, use the damn ion thruster to reach escape velocity and put it in earths orbit around the sun just slightly ahead or behind, think about how much use it would be later, just cause you don't know what you could use it for doesnt mean you should destroy it for invalid reasons. The fucking solar panels alone could save a future space marooned person/s sometime in the future, its not as if its a giant blob of radioactivity that we need to get rid of its full of raw elements like copper and carbon im sure.
Burnerjack
3.7 / 5 (3) Jul 27, 2011
Hard to believe it was worth the cost.
Xzenos
3.7 / 5 (3) Jul 27, 2011
this is bullsh*t!!! keep her running till atleast till 2030! retro fitt that baby with some propulsion and send her to mars or beyound! i mean come on,just dock what landing module you want to land on mars to the iss,and send her on her way,that easy.
InterestedAmateur
2 / 5 (2) Jul 27, 2011
As long as they hit the Pacific and don't do another SkyLab onto the Australian mainland I don't care what they do with it.
stripeless_zebra
5 / 5 (3) Jul 27, 2011
Dumping the ISS does not fit the S. Hawking's vision of a space civilization. If we have to junk everything we put into orbit after twenty-something years then there is no way to create permanent stations hosting thousands or even tens of thousands.
MachinegunDojo
4 / 5 (4) Jul 28, 2011
I'd imagine the ISS is already dumping plenty of debris into it's current orbit. Hopefully whatever comes next is reusable and produces no refuse, I really want more permanent use of tax payer money regardless of nationality.
Skepticus
3.5 / 5 (4) Jul 28, 2011
I say bring a VSMIR to the ISS by 2020 (it should be more advanced, reliable by then), then boost the whole thing into solar orbit as a monument for future generations. It may take awhile for the VASMIR engines to get ISS there, but time should be no object, since it will become a museum piece. With solar orbit, the danger of ISS becomes space junk hazard will be a non-problem.
ShotmanMaslo
4 / 5 (2) Jul 28, 2011
2020 is just a date where ISS could be sunk at the earliest, I see nothing in the article pointing to this being the case for sure. There are talks to keep it flying up to 2028.

And by 2020, there should be private Bigelow stations already in orbit. Just like the shuttle is being replaced by private rockets, the same eventualy awaits the ISS. It was not build to last indefinitely.
Magnette
5 / 5 (1) Jul 28, 2011
Why are the Russians deciding what to do with the ISS? We supplied over half of the modules for construction and most of the money that went into building it.


From the article...
"Right now we've agreed with our partners that the station will be used until approximately 2020,"

That would suggest that it has been a joint discussion with all parties involved and not a unilateral decision by Russia.

I do agree that it should be reused as much as possible as long as it's more economical to refit than to replace.

WhiteJim
3.7 / 5 (3) Jul 28, 2011
sell it to the private sector to use as the base structure for a space hotel. Some reinforcing and a few new added modules and presto ... cheaper than building from scratch.
intech
1 / 5 (2) Jul 28, 2011
A far better Idea than to send trash into the Ocean would be to send the ISS into the Sun after it has served its purpose.. no waste and in fact the components would be broken down to its elements recycling on a Grand scale.
Javinator
5 / 5 (2) Jul 28, 2011
no waste


Except for the energy it would take to do that.
intech
3 / 5 (2) Jul 28, 2011
A small price to pay in trying to keep the Oceans clean don't you think ?
WhiteJim
5 / 5 (1) Jul 28, 2011
A small price to pay in trying to keep the Oceans clean don't you think ?


With the same amount of money that would take you could clean up a significant percentage of the world oceans garbage patches and recycle that plastic
TheGhostofOtto1923
3.4 / 5 (5) Jul 28, 2011
sell it to the private sector to use as the base structure for a space hotel. Some reinforcing and a few new added modules and presto ... cheaper than building from scratch.
The Russians should be making some good cash from tourists. Cut rate - family of 4 - $100M.

The greatest benefit from building this thing is learning how to build it. This is a great accomplishment and something which had to be done.

It also gave us flexibility to do unanticipated things; if we needed to construct something in orbit - say an emergency mission to divert an asteroid. This could be assembled at the station with large construction crews, and might still be.

It is a bridgehead - an outpost. A colony.
rgharakh
4 / 5 (2) Jul 28, 2011
They should attach a solar sail and let it drift out into space. I'm sure there's plenty of instruments on it that can make it into a sort of pseudo-satellite.
that_guy
5 / 5 (3) Jul 28, 2011
I say bring a VSMIR to the ISS by 2020 (it should be more advanced, reliable by then), then boost the whole thing into solar orbit as a monument for future generations. It may take awhile for the VASMIR engines to get ISS there, but time should be no object, since it will become a museum piece. With solar orbit, the danger of ISS becomes space junk hazard will be a non-problem.


As said before, they're putting VASIMIR on the ISS by 2013.

Making it into a museum piece in space is actually quite interesting.
SCVGoodToGo
1.3 / 5 (3) Jul 28, 2011
t may take awhile for the VASMIR engines to get ISS there, but time should be no object,


Mars in 39 days?
that_guy
5 / 5 (4) Jul 28, 2011
t may take awhile for the VASMIR engines to get ISS there, but time should be no object,


Mars in 39 days?


I agree with your sentiment. The main roadblock is not the power of the ion or plasma engines we have available at the time the ISS is decommissioned - It's the ISS itself - The ISS is a space station, not a space ship, and can only tolerate a small amount a continuous torque. You don't want pieces breaking off it (Or the thing breaking in half) while you push it along.
LoboSolo
3.3 / 5 (3) Jul 28, 2011
t may take awhile for the VASMIR engines to get ISS there, but time should be no object,


Mars in 39 days?


That would be with a LIGHTWEIGHT nuclear power plant that doesn't exist nor is being planned.

If you want to go to Mars quickly, restart NERVA or pay Pratt & Whitney to move forward with their TRITON design.
Javinator
3.5 / 5 (2) Jul 28, 2011
A small price to pay in trying to keep the Oceans clean don't you think ?


You're talking about trading one kind of pollution for another. Energy isn't free.
LoboSolo
2 / 5 (4) Jul 28, 2011
I say bring a VSMIR to the ISS by 2020 ...


A VASIMR prototype will be tested in a couple of years on the ISS.

I suppose that with all the solar panels on the ISS and a slow, long thrust of a VASIMR so as not to over stress it, that in several years, you could nudge up it up out of the way for possible salvage later. I don't know how much fuel it would need to do that nor if it would be worth the effort.

My two cents is to splash it now, save the money, and focus on exploring beyond LEO.
stacysloss
1 / 5 (2) Jul 28, 2011
FIRST OF ALL .. Why can't we simply "park it on the moon, and try sending up some folks with supplies, parts, and materials, little by little, so as to cut down cost of maintaining it. I know they have extra parts already waiting. Allnthe would have to do is every time they send some folks up, take some stuff to drop off for a tentative "parking date". Once the date arrives, park the ISS on the moon, and that would be our first step to building a station on the moon. It would already have supplies and materials aboard to begin our development of a moon base. 2020 is far enouh away that if they begin planning NOW, they would be able to accomplish this. Totally possible. Totally worth it. Then from 2020 on, we work on building structures on the moon. Then, we build a nice little green house and plant some veggies and suddenly it becomes more sustainable for extended stays. We would be able to accomplish so much more from the moon. This WILL work, NO logical reason NOT to try.
that_guy
5 / 5 (1) Jul 28, 2011
@stacy - I think we all agree with you that all the stuff already up there in orbit should be reused in some way. However, unfortunately, in this forum, we do not have the information/expertise/knowledge/etc to definitively determine if something is truly practical and totally worth it or not...

But yeah, we won't really know until someone gets off their a$$es and does some serious work on this idea.

From an organizational outlook, I'd say Bigelow industries would be the one to watch on doing this kind of thing. NASA itself is too burned on the cost innefficiencies of the space shuttle to consider the idea right now...although they did do an excellent job servicing hubble and retrofitting certain parts of it.
TheGhostofOtto1923
1 / 5 (3) Jul 28, 2011
You would think that the way it was designed- ie modular- that you could reconfigure it fairly easily for dedicated traveling missions? As to moving it, apparently they move it quite a bit to avoid junk and keep it in orbit.

Why couldnt they just raise it to a more stable orbit? Maybe thats what the vasimr is for. Could soyuz reach it in a higher orbit? Maybe multiple vasimr engines placed in the right locations would make it more motile.

But yeah we're all just quessing here.
Why are the Russians deciding what to do with the ISS? We supplied over half of the modules for construction and most of the money that went into building it.
This could get interesting.

"US moves station remotely to prevent russian docking - russians rearming soyuz after US robot spaceplanes plant mines - ESA refueling vessel destroyed on approach..." etc

Competition among adversaries is what got us into space to begin with. Russians are redoing the favor perhaps? Humans are inescapably crisis-driven.
TheGhostofOtto1923
1 / 5 (2) Jul 28, 2011
Stacy wants to park the ISS on the moon. It would probably go something like this:
http://www.youtub...ure=fvsr

-BASTARDS!!! And we want to trust them with sole access to OUR station??!?
TheGhostofOtto1923
1 / 5 (2) Jul 28, 2011
Nutz - messed that up... Reboot!

Stacy wants to park the ISS on the moon. It would probably go something like this:
http://www.youtub...ure=fvsr

-Only a WHOLE lot worse. Maybe a little like this:
http://www.youtub...GizBjDXo

-Or even... THIS!
http://www.youtub...e=relmfu

-BASTARDS!!! And we want to trust them with sole access to OUR station??!?

intech
not rated yet Jul 29, 2011
@Javinator

I was only suggesting an alternative to just dumping the ISS into the Ocean. yes there would be waste with fuel but better that than to keep using the Oceans as a dumping area.. and so far you have only criticized .. please let us know your suggestion.
Javinator
not rated yet Jul 29, 2011
I don't see any issue with what people above are suggesting wrt to using it as a test piece for VASIMR.

VASIMR needs to have its propulsion capabilities tested in space sooner or later anyways. Why not use it to push a big piece of metal in space that we can already dock with and work on that we need to get rid of anyways?

Or just send it to the ocean. The oceans are big. It would sink to the bottom and would become part of the ocean floor like a sunken ship.
that_guy
not rated yet Jul 29, 2011
Or just send it to the ocean. The oceans are big. It would sink to the bottom and would become part of the ocean floor like a sunken ship.

The international space reef memorial haha
Burnerjack
1 / 5 (1) Jul 31, 2011
As the national debt ceiling debate nears it's shrill crescendo, I have to ask " how much did we spend on this, again?"
Ober
not rated yet Jul 31, 2011
Well I think the worlds space agencies, need to sit back and plan this stuff to last longer. spending billions to only burn it up and have bits land in the ocean, really isn't worth the money.
So while the worlds finances are up shit creek, take time out from burning money in space, and design HIGHER tech engines and systems. Better power plants etc. We've messed around in space and know it's a dangerous and expensive place to play. We need to stop building temporary, disposable systems, and get on with stuff that will LAST!!!

I do like the idea of putting it into moon orbit. Even it gets hit, you can enter the station wearing a space suit!!!!!
SCVGoodToGo
not rated yet Aug 03, 2011
Mars in 39 days?

That would be with a LIGHTWEIGHT nuclear power plant that doesn't exist nor is being planned.


aparently the old joke slipped passed you.

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