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posted by hubie on Thursday August 04, @10:08PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the build-it-and-the-government-contracts-will-come dept.

But the ISS isn't done yet — far from it, in fact:

The International Space Station (ISS) is entering its golden years, but activities aboard the orbiting lab aren't slowing down — just the opposite, in fact.

The ISS can't fly forever, however, and NASA officials envision a diverse market of commercial space stations taking its place as demand for access to low Earth orbit (LEO) continues to increase.

[...] Northrop Grumman, Axiom Space, Nanoracks and Sierra Space are all private companies with plans to construct their own space stations. NASA wants at least one of them to be on orbit before the ISS retires, a timeline the companies are targeting as well.

"The commercial LEO destination partners we are working with today have plans to be operational as early as 2027," Gatens said.

[...] Roberts expects a diverse availability of private space stations, unique in their designs and specialized in their abilities, saying, "Each of these commercial LEO destination companies, the four [Northrop Grumman, Axiom Space, Nanoracks and Sierra Space] are going to be looking at ways to address different needs from different consumers out there ... Each of those companies is likely to take slightly different approaches to designing and operating their stations. And that's going to have, I think, an extremely beneficial value."

Roberts sees a day when NASA is less invested in space stations and more invested in science aboard space stations. "While there needs to be continued strong support from governments, we at National Lab and NASA and other agencies are also working towards that day when they are purely commercial-driven, so that the consumer will drive what's accessible in space and what's needed there," he said. "And that ... will drive acceleration in the pace of discovery in that environment."

With over 20 years of expertise building and operating a space station, NASA is offering whatever insight it can to companies to utilize their on-orbit experience. "NASA is not dictating how that hardware is going to be built," said Costello, "but we do hope that you benefit from those lessons learned." He also points out the additional eight years of life the ISS still has ahead (provided the other partners officially endorse the 2030 timeline) and hopes the station's facilities continue to improve.

"We're looking at capabilities that we can enable on ISS, but with a mindset towards portability," Costello said, "to move those onto CLDs [commercial LEO destinations] in the future, so that we can continue the NASA research and the National Lab research that takes advantage of those research facilities on the ISS in a future program."


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  • (Score: 2) by Barenflimski on Thursday August 04, @11:20PM (2 children)

    by Barenflimski (6836) on Thursday August 04, @11:20PM (#1264996)

    It won't take long for the Tianhe 1 (Chinese Space Station) to be as visible as the ISS.

    Give it 15 years, and we'll be looking at Marriot and SpaceX logo's "Just about to come over the horizon."

    Satellites "blocking" astronomy will seem quaint to our children.

    • (Score: 4, Interesting) by takyon on Friday August 05, @02:02AM (1 child)

      by takyon (881) <takyonNO@SPAMsoylentnews.org> on Friday August 05, @02:02AM (#1265005) Journal

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tiangong_space_station [wikipedia.org]

      Once completed, Tiangong will have a mass between 80 and 100 t (180,000 and 220,000 lb), roughly one-fifth the mass of the International Space Station and about the size of the decommissioned Russian Mir space station.

      https://www.teslarati.com/spacex-shares-how-its-making-starlink-satellite-less-bright/ [teslarati.com]

      SpaceX has been criticized for the brightness of its Starlink satellites by astronomers. Elon Musk and the team at SpaceX not only listened to the criticism but are actively responding to it by collaborating with the astronomy community to solve the issue.

      SpaceX noted that through the collaboration, it has identified and mitigated the key causes of satellite brightness. The company is working on making the satellites invisible to the naked eye when they are at their standard operational altitude.

      [...] SpaceX will cover the bottom of the satellites with a second-gen dielectric mirror film. This version reduces the observed brightness ten times better than the first-gen film by using a Bi-Directional Reflectance Distribution Function (BRDF) metric.

      [...] Through extensive research and iteration, SpaceX maximized the film’s specular scatter. The core of the film is a Bragg mirror that includes many thin layers of plastic that have a variety of refractive indices which create interference patterns internally to reflect the light.

      It also allows radio waves to pass through with no issues. Protective layers of titanium dioxide and silicon dioxide were added to protect the film in thin, pure layers that don’t affect the film itself.

      [...] SpaceX plans to offer the dielectric mirror film as a product on the Starlink website. The reason is that SpaceX can not reduce the effect of satellites on space exploration by itself.

      The film will be offered at cost and all operators will be able to use it to reduce the effect of their own constellations.

      --
      [SIG] 10/28/2017: Soylent Upgrade v14 [soylentnews.org]
  • (Score: 2) by c0lo on Friday August 05, @03:13AM (2 children)

    by c0lo (156) on Friday August 05, @03:13AM (#1265026) Journal

    the consumer will drive what's accessible in space and what's needed there

    See subject

    --
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aoFiw2jMy-0
    • (Score: 2) by captain normal on Friday August 05, @03:27AM (1 child)

      by captain normal (2205) on Friday August 05, @03:27AM (#1265029)

      The only consumers I see in this are "Billionaires In Space" coming to a screen near you soon!

      --
      “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” Thomas Edison
      • (Score: 1, Touché) by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 05, @04:30AM

        by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 05, @04:30AM (#1265040)

        Hence "Blackjack and hookers in space". Peasants can't afford them even on the surface.

  • (Score: 2) by Username on Friday August 05, @12:47PM (2 children)

    by Username (4557) on Friday August 05, @12:47PM (#1265091)

    Instead of crashing the iss to earth can't they get some boosters up there and just launch it towards something interesting?

    I'd ride it to mars.

    • (Score: 2) by Immerman on Friday August 05, @01:42PM (1 child)

      by Immerman (3985) on Friday August 05, @01:42PM (#1265101)

      You'd need a whole lot of infrastructure in place in Mars orbit for that to be anything but a slow, lonely suicide mission. You wouldn't even have any way to stop, you'd just coast past and then just circulate between Mars and Earth orbit for years (decades?) before approaching either planet again.

      Plus, the ISS is showing its age, even with the ~$1 billion a year spent on maintenance and upkeep.

      Not to mention the only rocket seriously being considered for taking people to Mars any time soon, SpaceX's Starship, will provide more pressurized volume than the entire ISS. So the ISS would be kind of a downgrade.

      • (Score: 2) by c0lo on Friday August 05, @03:10PM

        by c0lo (156) on Friday August 05, @03:10PM (#1265111) Journal

        You'd need a whole lot of infrastructure in place in Mars orbit for that to be anything but a slow, lonely suicide mission.

        Yrah, naaaah, mate. Lotsa money for that. A cheaper way to solve it: take many with you and will be a short and merry suicide mission.

        --
        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aoFiw2jMy-0
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