NASA shares new plans to help deorbit ISS with a ‘space tug’

NASA has shared new details about its ISS deorbit plan. The International Space Station is currently orbiting our planet, with ongoing scientific missions to continue until the end of the 2020s. Then, in 2030, NASA will use a “space tug” to help bring the ISS down to Earth, where it will crash into the Pacific Ocean, resting at the bottom of the sea.

It’s an intriguing plan that NASA has had in the works for several months. However, the space agency originally planned to use Russian spacecraft to help navigate the station down to Earth. Currently, NASA is taking a different approach, saying it will rely on a “space tug” as a critical part of its ISS deorbit plan.

NASA ISS deorbit plan will utilize a space tug

The plan was first revealed on Thursday, March 9, after NASA released its 2024 federal budget request. The space agency has requested a $27.2 billion allocation, according to That proposal has $180 million set to “initiate the development of a new space tug.” The tug would be responsible for helping the ISS deorbit in 2030, and NASA would also use it for other activities.

During a new NASA press conference discussing the proposed budget, even more details about the ISS deorbit plan emerged on Monday, March 13. Congress still has to approve it, but the space agency said it expects the initiative to cost just over $1 billion. NASA says the actual cost will probably be lower once it sends out a request for proposals.

The big goal is to create a “linchpin” in NASA’s space operations that gives them redundancies should the plans with the Russian spacecraft fall through. During Monday’s press conference, NASA also revealed that Artemis 2 and Artemis 3 are still on track for 2024 and 2025 launches. However, Artemis 4 has been pushed back to 2028.

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