The ISS is scheduled to be disabled at the end of the decade, after nearly 30 years in orbit. It was an important symbol of international cooperation after the Cold War rivalry in the "space race" and the first truly long-term space habitat.
Plans for multiple private space stations represent a major step in how space will be used. But will these stations change the way people live in space, or will they replicate the traditions of an earlier space habitat?
Commercializing life in space
This change is due to NASA's support for the commercialization of space. This emphasis really began about a decade ago with the development of private cargo services to supply the ISS, such as SpaceX's Cargo Dragon, and private vehicles to deliver astronauts to orbit and the moon, such as SpaceX's Crew Dragon, Boeing's Starliner, and Lockheed. Martin Orion capsules.
Startup Axiom Space received a $ 140 million contract from NASA in February 2020 for a private module that will be attached to the ISS.
The first module should be delivered to the ISS in 2024 or 2025, and the rest - annually. By the time the ISS is decommissioned around 2030, the Axiom modules will become a free-flying station.
“If, after the ISS is decommissioned in low Earth orbit, there is no habitable commercial purpose, NASA will not be able to conduct medical research in microgravity and technology demonstrations necessary for long-term human research missions to the Moon and Mars, which significantly increases the risk : or a delay - these missions, "the agency said in a statement.
To avoid this potential scenario, NASA has proposed that one or more commercial LEO "destinations" (as stations are sometimes called) operational by 2028, giving an overlap for two years before the ISS is decommissioned by end of the decade. While the report raised doubts about meeting this timetable, each of the three companies and NASA executives felt confident in their ability to avoid an outage.