NASA Wants A Space Tug Built to Bring ISS Down in 2031

Robert Zwilling

Well-Known Member
Jun 12, 2018
"The USDV, they added, "will be a new spacecraft design or modification to an existing spacecraft that must function on its first flight, and have sufficient redundancy and anomaly recovery capability to continue the critical deorbit burn. As with any development effort of this size, the USDV will take years to develop, test and certify."

The article says it will take years to accomplish this, but there is only 8 years to go before the job is scheduled to be completed.

The space tug will be a giant fuel tank, with a giant engine, capable of burning through all that fuel in less than an hour. Can a little engine burn all the fuel in a short amount of time or is a big engine needed to burn a lot of fuel all at once. No mention of how it would attach itself to the station or how the parts could be bundled before being taken to a lower orbit. Would the station be cut up into pieces by a human crew and how long would that take. Once parts start getting removed would the station be stable enough for people to still live in it. The bigger the demolition crew, the less time it would take but more cabin space would be needed or more ships might be needed. Supposedly the US space tug will only be guiding the US share of the space station, and maybe only big enough to do this. Other countries would be responsible for safely taking care of their components that make up the space station.

Is the thinking that there will be lots of big ships and people working in space 8 years from now.

Companies thinking of making the space tug might have 2 plans, one for US only, and one with additional size for removing other countries ISS parts. They would charge for that and more than likely not all countries would be willing to pay. This is like 10 carts before the horse for collecting the funds needed to do the job.

The US wants the space tug to work on the first launch for a number of reasons. They only want to pay for it once. If the rocket malfunctions at liftoff it could be a really big explosion because there will be the fuel needed to guide the ISS into reentry and fuel needed to lift the entire rock into orbit.

How much fuel is required to do this? The tug has to be larger than a Russian Progress ship that resupplies the ISS. The Russian Progress ship is launched by a large 3 stage Soyuz rocket. Would the tug be a stand alone dependent on some one else's rocket or built as a complete package. If it blows up, would the launching company's launch pad be destroyed.
Sounds like "interesting" days ahead for ISS.
The government is planning on a bunch of privately operated space stations to be orbiting the Earth by 2030.
My understanding is that the orbit ISS currently occupies is going to have a block of flats erected.
The metals and various materials upon exposure to the extreme temperatures and radiations found in space, plus mechanical stress, eventually get fatigued and need replacement which doesn't happen. Each time the resupply ships dock that's another bump that slowly knocks bits and pieces a little bit looser. One space times writer said that the check engine light was lit up on the ISS.
Just like with Sky Lab; cheaper to let it go then to refit it.
Could you imagine what the ISS would be like if it was built around a refitted Sky Lab? The cost would be more than the current ISS.

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