Aug 8, 2023, 10:52am EDT

The International Space Station is retiring, sparking a new space race

The ISS over Miami
NASA/via Wikimedia Commons

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The News

A new kind of space race is unfolding: The competition among private companies to replace the International Space Station when it is forcibly crashed into the Pacific Ocean before 2031.

Airbus, the European aircraft manufacturer, has officially entered the fray, collaborating on a proposal with U.S. startup Voyager. We’ve curated reporting and insights on the future of the space station.

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  • The ISS, launched in 1998, has been funded by five national space agencies. Now, four private companies are in the running to build a replacement and secure a lucrative anchor contract from NASA. In addition to the Airbus and Voyager team-up, Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin, Axiom Space, and Northrop Grumman are in the running. Any rivals that don’t win the NASA contract will have to find other customers to finance their new space station. — FT
  • According to the preliminary proposals, the new space stations wouldn’t just be used for space exploration by government agencies. Some of them would also have the ability to serve the expanding space tourism industry. While the ISS acts as a general store for space, the new commercial stations could serve as more specialized markets. “You’re going to see platforms emerge where one may be devoted to manufacturing, one may be [for] tourism, one may be a habitat for professional astronauts,” Voyager Space’s Jeffrey Manber said. Smithsonian Magazine
  • The existing space station is aging, so by the end of the decade, NASA plans to retire it by crashing it into a remote part of the Pacific Ocean known as Point Nemo, named after the Jules Verne character. It’s considered the place in the ocean that’s farthest from land; more than 260 pieces of space debris have been sunk there since 1971. — CNN