US Vice President Kamala Harris, speaking at the National Space Council on September 9, said her country’s space administration is developing new rules to allow new space activities. During her speech at NASA’s Johnson Space Center, she said the new framework of rules would “promote innovation and enable competition” given the entry of commercial companies into the space sector. Harris further stated that these rules will be “flexible enough to cover space activities that haven’t even been imagined yet.”
The Vice President made these statements while affirming NASA’s involvement in the management of the International Space Station (ISS) after President Joe Biden announced the extension of the United States’ role until 2030. We are aware that the International Space Station will not be operational forever. That’s why NASA is working with the private sector to develop the first generation of space stations,” Harris said.
So far, several private players such as Sierra Space, Blue Origin and Axiom Space are developing commercial orbital outposts that would eventually replace the ISS, currently operated by five member states (US, Russia, Canada, Europe and Japan). On the other hand, countries like China and Russia are planning their own space stations which should be completed during this same decade.
China’s space station named Tiangong is nearing completion as two of its three modules have been launched and the third is expected to dock with the others later this year. On the other hand, the Russian Orbital Service Station (ROSS) is expected to be completed by 2025. Recently, Russian space chief Yuri Borisov announced that Moscow will leave the decades-old space station after 2024, however, NASA’s recent statement after a multilateral Conference Board meeting revealed that “each partner has confirmed that they will continue to work within the respective government processes on the expansion and use of the station at the beyond 2024”.
NASA’s plan to retire the ISS
Earlier this year, NASA released a plan to deorbit the space station in 2030 and crash into the Pacific Ocean, paving the way for commercial installations. The plan states that the orbital outpost would fall at a place called Point Nemo in the Pacific. This place is also called a starship graveyard because it is the farthest point of any land. Once over the target location, mission controllers would use the space station’s propulsion systems to direct the outpost into the ocean.