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Jun 27, 2024, 1:20pm EDT
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Semafor Signals

Elon Musk’s SpaceX to bring down International Space Station in 2030, NASA says

Insights from The Washington Post, Scientific American, The Atlantic, and Axios

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SpaceX's Starship spacecraft during a launch.
Cheney Orr/Reuters
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The News

NASA has tapped Elon Musk’s SpaceX to de-orbit and destroy the International Space Station when it retires in 2030.

The ISS, which has been operational for more than two decades, is a rare point of international collaboration between Europe, Russia, and the US — but it is getting too old to function.

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Whatever replaces it will not have the same importance as a geopolitical beacon of hope, as both China and Russia plan to go their own way in space.

SpaceX reportedly reached a valuation of $210 billion, a record for a private company, second only to TikTok’s owner ByteDance.



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SIGNALS

Semafor Signals: Global insights on today's biggest stories.

SpaceX has a leading role in US space race with China

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Sources:  
Scientific American, The Daily Wire, The Washington Post

SpaceX is critical to NASA’s ambitions to get people back on the moon. While Musk predicted in 2021 humans would return to the moon by 2026, the timeline is in flux: NASA’s top official has said the US is “on schedule” to make that date, but there have been delays even as China has raced ahead in landing robots on the moon. SpaceX’s recent successful test of its Starship rocket offers some optimism — it will ferry NASA astronauts to the moon from orbit. China has undoubtedly become the main challenger in space to the US, and China has warned its Western rival it will keep taking “giant steps,” despite efforts to deter it, The Washington Post reported.

SpaceX dominates rocket industry as competitors lag behind

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Sources:  
The Washington Post, The Atlantic

SpaceX has become a “dominant behemoth” in the space industry, The Washington Post noted. Its growth has been favored by the setbacks of its competitors, especially those experienced by Boeing, The Atlantic wrote. Both companies were contracted by NASA to develop a fleet of commercial crewed spacecraft in 2014, but Boeing hasn’t yet managed to complete a crewed mission. “The technical delays, and whether Boeing can overcome them, reflect not only the high stakes for the future of the Starliner program, but also the company’s future in space,” The Washington Post wrote.

Musk’s companies have a growing role in US geopolitics

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Source:  
Axios

The US government increasingly relies on the commercial sector for space activities, giving private companies and individuals more leverage over geopolitical decisions, experts told Axios. The private sector both meets, and sometimes exceeds, the government’s capabilities in the industry, and NASA has largely sidelined its own hardware in favor of that made by SpaceX and other smaller companies. More specifically, SpaceX and Musk’s role in geopolitics has grown, particularly with the launch of internet satellite network Starlink. It has proven crucial to military operations and intelligence gathering in Ukraine and elsewhere. But SpaceX is also increasingly the only rocket company able to reliably launch American interests into space, whether they are NASA or defense missions.

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