The Biden administration wants $27.2 billion for NASA's 2024 budget, with the space agency prioritizing Moon and Mars missions:
NASA is staying focused on the Artemis lunar program, its Moon to Mars objectives, and maintaining a presence in low Earth orbit as part of the agency's proposed budget for 2024. The space agency also has a new item on its annual wishlist: a space tug to deorbit the International Space Station (ISS) at the end of its life.
[...] NASA's proposed budget includes $180 million for developing a deorbit capability for the ISS by the end of 2030. Should the budget be approved, the space agendcy would call upon the private sector to come up with a space tug concept to lower the orbit of the ISS so that it can reenter and burn up through Earth's atmosphere. NASA had previously suggested using Russia's Progress cargo spacecraft to deorbit the ISS, and apparently that option is still on the table as well.
[...] Still, NASA's Artemis program sits at the top of the space agency's to-do list, snagging $8.1 billion from the budget (an increase from last year's $7.5 billion). The plan still stands for NASA to land humans on the Moon as early as 2025, and start on the construction of the Lunar Gateway, an outpost orbiting the Moon that will house astronauts and scientific research.
The budget request will allocate $2.5 billion towards the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket, which was used for the liftoff of the Artemis 1 mission in November 2022, "to focus on successful completion of Artemis 2, and make necessary preparations for Artemis 3 and 4, which includes the enhanced upper stage configuration and other upgrades," Schaus said during the call.
[...] Following that same objective, NASA is also focusing on its Mars Sample Return Mission to bring back rock samples currently being stowed away by the Perseverance Rover on the Martian surface. The future mission was allocated $949 million to launch samples from the surface of Mars as early as 2030, an increase from $800 million originally assigned to the mission the year before.
NASA's Mars Sample Return Mission is getting a portion of the total funding for science, which adds up to $8.26 billion in the 2024 budget. Some of the missions that were highlighted as part of the budget include the James Webb Space Telescope, the Nancy Grace Roman Telescope (scheduled for launch in 2027), the Europa Clipper mission to study Jupiter's moon (scheduled to launch in 2024), and the ExoMars Mission.
(Score: 4, Insightful) by ElizabethGreene on Thursday March 16, @03:18PM (5 children)
My ignorant non-expert understanding is the largest thrusters on ISS are on the Russian side, on Zvezda and Progress. Could the space tug be a contingency plan so we can safely deorbit the US modules if we split the station? I recall the Russians saying they were going to keep it running if the US pulled out, but I haven't been following it closely.
Like MIR, it seems like a damn shame to just throw it away. I know it's a rusty old clunker, but it's a rusty clunker with 80kW of power generation capability and 420 tons of mass. It would be cool if we could do something useful with it instead of turning it into high-speed atmospheric dust.
(Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 16, @03:24PM (4 children)
If we could crash land it on the moon then maybe it could be part of the new base costing so many billions of dollars for so, so little point.
(Score: 3, Interesting) by ElizabethGreene on Thursday March 16, @04:43PM (3 children)
There's definitely not enough delta-v for that. If ISS was in an equatorial orbit, which it's not, it would need about 3km/s to intercept the moon. Deorbiting it will take significantly less delta-v. I found the official NASA RFI for this project here [sam.gov] and the specification is for 47 m/s delta-v for ISS estimated mass of 450 metric tons.
(Score: 2) by turgid on Thursday March 16, @08:51PM (2 children)
I thought that the ISS experienced reasonably sufficient atmospheric drag such that it needed to be boosted with an engine every so often? Would it not fall down naturally?
I refuse to engage in a battle of wits with an unarmed opponent [wikipedia.org].
(Score: 1, Informative) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 16, @09:10PM
That would be an uncontrolled entry, like with the Chinese station or Skylab [space.com], and this one is much bigger than those were.
(Score: 3, Informative) by ElizabethGreene on Friday March 17, @02:59AM
Yes, atmospheric drag would deorbit it in relatively short order (years, not decades). I tried to model how long it would take in mission planner, but apparently I've forgotten how to use it. :(
The reason you'd want to intentionally deorbit it is to aim for the spacecraft graveyard, a big empty chunk of the Indian Ocean where the odds of it hurting someone are infinitesimal. If you let it come down naturally it could come down in the middle of a major city and there'd be nothing you could do to stop it. Most of the structure will burn up in the atmosphere, but as big as it is you're practically guaranteed that some chunks will make it to the surface.