SpaceX given permission to destroy the International Space Station

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NASA has given Elon Musk’s SpaceX permission to destroy the International Space Station (ISS) by 2030.

The space station has been continually occupied since 2000 by astronauts doing more than 3,300 scientific experiments above our heads.

But the countries operating the ISS only agreed to run it until 2030 at the latest.

Since 1998, the US, Russia, Japan, Europe and Canada have maintained different sections of the ISS. The agreements to jointly run the space station marked a new era of global cooperation after the Cold War.

But when those agreements run out, the space station will need to be brought out of orbit and Elon Musk’s SpaceX has been given the $843m (£666.4m) contract to do it.

The company will build a vehicle to tow the space station through the atmosphere where it will “destructively break up”, according to NASA.

Crash landing

It will then crash into the ocean, away from populated areas, along with the SpaceX vehicle.

“The orbital laboratory remains a blueprint for science, exploration, and partnerships in space for the benefit of all,” said Ken Bowersox, NASA’s associate administrator for Space Operations Mission Directorate.

While SpaceX will develop the deorbit spacecraft, NASA will take ownership after development and operate it throughout its mission.

But once the ISS is destroyed, low-orbit will not lie empty.

Private companies including SpaceX, Axiom, Blue Origin and Vast are developing commercial space stations that could launch as soon as next year.

“[Selecting the deorbit vehicle] supports NASA’s plans for future commercial destinations and allows for the continued use of space near Earth,” said Mr Bowersox.

The ISS costs the various space agencies €100bn (£84.6bn) to run, according to the European Space Agency, over 30 years.

NASA said the agency is transitioning to “commercially owned space destinations closer to home”.

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