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Ultimate fate of ISS (International Space Station)

  1. Feb 19, 2008 #1
    Eventually ISS will re-enter the earth's atmosphere and burn up, I assume. I recall that back in 1979 Skylab fell back to earth and showered debris over a large area. It's never too early to plan ahead.... Any thoughts on when ISS will come down and how it will be handled? This question enters my mind every time I see them installing another multi-ton module onto it.
     
    Last edited: Feb 19, 2008
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  3. Feb 19, 2008 #2

    mgb_phys

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    It was part of the launch plan that it could be deorbited succesfully with 99% certainty of less than 1:10,000 chance of a casualty.
    So how do you design a space station so that it can be de-orbitted in a chaotic flight path into a turbulent atmosphere at hypersonic velocities with 1:10,000 chance of hitting someone?

    Basically they fold the solar panels and point it at the middle of the pacific.
     
    Last edited: Feb 19, 2008
  4. Feb 19, 2008 #3

    Chronos

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    The ISS could be kept in orbit indefinitely with an occasional boost. I don't foresee it being abandoned any time soon, but, replacing and jettisoning older parts of the station into the pacific is an option.
     
  5. Feb 20, 2008 #4

    mgb_phys

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    Assuming funding yes - the current plan is to complete it in 2010 as the shuttle retires and dump it in 2016. Other opinioins are that it will be a rush to complete it in time to dump it!

    The Nasa technical report on end of life is available at
    http://books.nap.edu/openbook.php?record_id=9794&page=R1
     
  6. Feb 20, 2008 #5
    I am surprised that it could be dumped only 6 years after completion, or even less if completion is delayed or funding is cut. And the "spray" of debris could be huge. Skylab was much smaller and it's footprint included the Indian Ocean and Western Australia.
     
  7. Feb 20, 2008 #6

    mgb_phys

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    It's served it's purpose already. It ensured that a lot of aerospace companies didn't go bust after the end of the coldwar

    But this time it was determined that there was only a 1:10,000 chance of a casualty so it's alright.
     
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