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After 20 years in orbit, ISS is moving towards retirement. Here’s what can replace it



On Monday, the world celebrated the 20th anniversary of human continuous presence in space. Astronauts and astronauts have been living on the International Space Station nonstop since November 2, 2000.

During those 7,300 days, the US $ 150 billion orbital laboratory received 241 people from 19 countries and more than 3,000 scientific experiments were conducted there.

However, all good things must end. NASA deleted the ISS to fly at least until 2028, but the station is starting to show its age. At some point in the next 10 to 15 years, it is likely that NASA will debit the station, causing it to fall into the South Pacific sea.

But other living stations are expected to replace ̵

1; most of them are designed and built by private companies.

Some of these companies, like Axiom Space and Bigelow Aerospace, hope to build the ISS’s success by adding extensions to the station that can eventually be brought into orbit as their own habitat.

Others, like Blue Origin, want to build brand new space halls so large and sophisticated that they could begin to resemble life on Earth.

The ISS is getting old

Station has extended service life for 15 years. In just the last few months, the Russian side of the station has seen a toilet fail, an oxygen supply failure and a growing air leak.

“All the modules of the Russian segment are exhausted,” Gennady Padalka, an astronaut, told RIA Novosti in October.

Executive diagram of Russians and AmericansInternational Space Station Map, including Zvezda Service Module. (NASA)

These problems are not enough to affect the integrity of the station right now, but are warning signs of deterioration.

“I think it’s an incredibly reliable and powerful system,” Kate Rubins, a NASA astronaut currently on the ISS, said in a press call last month.

But the prospect of the space station coming to retirement already has private companies competing to develop worthy successors.

Some companies will start out by building attachments for ISS

Axiom Space, a private aerospace company headquartered in Houston, Texas, aims to build the first commercial space station. Founded in 2016, Axiom received a contract from NASA to build at least one viable new commercial module to add to an existing space station.

Then, when the ISS is shut down, that module, along with any other modules Axiom has added during the intervention years, will theoretically detach to become a toxic orbital outpost create.

Iss axiom earth observatory module
The artist’s drawing of Axiom’s Earth Observatory, part of its tentative ISS module. (Axial space)

Another company with similar aspirations is Bigelow Aerospace, founded by real estate billionaire Robert Bigelow in 1999. The business sent a working prototype of its inflatable ISS module into space. – The Bigelow, or BEAM Scalable Activity Module, has been attached to the station since 2016. It is currently used for storage.

But Bigelow is designing a new version of the habitat at its facilities in Las Vegas, Nevada, which is much bigger and more ambitious than the first version. The newest model, called the B330, has an internal volume of 11,650 cubic feet (330 cubic meters), hence its name. That’s the size of a 1,165 square foot apartment with a 10-foot high ceiling.

“Equipped with two showrooms, two toilets, a giant cargo space and two different propulsion systems, this is the ideal habitat for a long-term space mission,” Bigelow said in a statement in September 2019.

“This large space station can accommodate four people indefinitely and five people for months.”

Ultimately, Bigelow hopes some versions of the B330 could accommodate astronauts to Mars.

Yet another company, the Sierra Nevada Corporation, is working on a prototype of a living environment in a three-story inflatable space. Its design allows it to be attached to a space station or act as a lunar base.

Known as the Large Inflatable Fabric Environment, or LIFE, this facility may even have a super-gravity garden that can supply the astronauts with fresh produce.

inflatable space habitat(Sierra Nevada Corporation)

Sierra Nevada senior vice president, Janet Kavandi, is also a retired NASA astronaut. She told Business Insider that the inflatable habitat can serve a variety of purposes in the space, including as “a manufacturing facility, a hotel that some people might be interested in, or an observatory. “

The ultimate goal, she added, is “to replace the existing space station with a new possibility.”

Blue Origin envisions habitats in the ‘fundamentally different’ space

While corporations like Bigelow and Axiom are using ISS as the starting point for space environments that could eventually become independent stations, others, like Blue Origin, have been working on on independent orbit environments.

That company, owned by Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos, envisions a much more spacious and luxurious living environment than ISS.

A recruiting post from Blue Origin in September suggested that even its initial stations would “fundamentally different from ‘exploratory’ habitats designed for small, specially trained crews. industry in deep space. “

Blue background medieval town in spaceThe artist’s concept of an O’Neill space colony simulates conditions for Earth in space. (Blue Origin)

In the long run, Bezos envisions gigantic habitats across the solar system that could house millions of workers based on the space economy, allowing heavy industry to thrive off our planet. The environment within these habitats will simulate Earth’s gravity and best-suited weather.

“This is Maui on its best day, the whole year,” said Bezos in May 2019, according The guardian. “No rain. No earthquakes. People will want to live here.”

This article was originally published by Business Insider.

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