The terms of the contract and the deadlines for NASA’s procurement notice pertaining to a vehicle to deorbit the International Space Station (ISS) have been adjusted.

Even though the government should have started planning for disposal more than 25 years ago when construction started, NASA didn’t release a request for bids for a deorbit vehicle until September 2023.

Months earlier in March, Kathy Lueders, who is currently SpaceX’s Starbase general manager and was previously NASA’s chief of human spaceflight, calculated that it would cost just under $1 billion to drop the International Space Station (ISS) out of orbit and scatter whatever survives re-entry across the planet’s oceans. To begin construction of a module to deorbit the complex, NASA officials submitted a budget proposal for $180 million.

A procurement notice issued in September 2023 asked for industry submissions due November 17, 2023. This was continued throughout the next few weeks, and the most recent update puts the date as of February 12, 2024. There has also been a modification in the required and desired launch and delivery dates. With a debut date of December 1, 2028, August 1, 2028 is now the anticipated delivery date. With a debut date of September 1, 2029, May 1, 2029, is the deadline for delivery.
In a covert update to its initial blog, NASA also stated that it now anticipates awarding a contract in late May or early June 2024.

Additionally, the agency has included the option to develop and produce the vehicle under a cost-plus agreement. The agency stated in its cover letter that “this revision maximizes value to the government by allowing offerors flexibility in proposing contract types,” however it has not stated why the change was made.

During the ISS’s latter years, there is always the difficult decision of what to do with it. One option had involved gently nudging the complex out of orbit with the Roscosmos Progress satellite. In an apparent attempt to avoid overly pressuring its partners, NASA stated that current plans “indicate a new spacecraft solution would provide more robust capabilities for responsible deorbit.”

Nonetheless, the revised dates coincide well with the existing estimate of the International Space Station’s end of life. Russia has pledged to continue funding at least until 2028, and NASA and other international space agencies plan to carry on until 2030.

Topics #ISS #NASA