NASA budget request includes plans for a ‘Space Tug’ for the International Space Station

NASA is still focused on Artemis lunar programmethat it Moon to Mars Objectives, maintain a Being in low Earth orbit As part of the agency’s proposed budget for 2024. The space agency also has a new item on its annual wish list: a space tug to deorbit the International Space Station (ISS) at the end of its lifespan.

On Monday, NASA clarified its budget for 2024, which was released Last week, it provided more details on where that money was going. President Joe Biden is seeking a $27.2 billion budget next year for the space agency, an increase of 7% from last year and more funding for future NASA missions to the moon.

During a call with reporters, NASA Chief Financial Officer Margaret Vaux Schhaus highlighted key priorities for the budget, such as establishing a presence on and around the moon, developing a new plan for de-orbiting the International Space Station, and releasing samples from the surface of Mars. As early as 2030.

NASA’s proposed budget includes $180 million to develop deorbiting capacity for the International Space Station by the end of 2030. If the budget is approved, the space agenda would call for private sector to come up with the concept of a space tug to lower the International Space Station’s orbit so it can re-enter and burn through Earth’s atmosphere. NASA had previously proposed using the Russian Progress cargo spacecraft to deorbit the International Space Station, It appears that this option is still on the table as well.

Our current model is still in use [the Russian spacecraft] And we continue to work with our Russian counterparts on how to safely deorbit using Progress vehicles.” Kathy Lueders, NASA’s associate administrator for space operations, told me during it Connection. “But we are also developing this U.s. Capability as a way to gain redundancy and the ability to better assist vehicle targeting and the safe return of the vehicle.”

Lueders estimates the total cost of the space tug will be about $1 billion, with $180 million required to give the space agency a head start on the project next year.

However, NASA’s Artemis program is at the top of the space agency’s mission list, taking $8.1 billion from the budget (up from last year’s $7.5 billion). The plan still allows NASA to land humans on the Moon as early as 2025, and to begin building Moon Gatean outpost orbiting the moon that will house astronauts and scientific research.

The budget request would allocate $2.5 billion for SpRocket Launch System (SLS)which was used to launch the Artemis 1 mission in November 2022, “to focus on the successful completion of Artemis 2, “And make the necessary preparations for Artemis 3 and 4, which include improved configuration of the upper stage and other upgrades,” Schhaus said during the call.

NASA also wants further development Its Moon to Mars program, a proposed idea to use the moon as a test for the eventual landing of humans on Mars. “I want to make it clear that our goals from the Moon to Mars include a steady pace of basic and enabling applied sciences, lunar and planetary sciences, physics, physical sciences, and human biology,” Schhaus said. “It also includes conducting science and data collection through instrumental exploration of Mars.”

Following the same goal, NASA is also focusing on its goal Mars sample return mission To bring back rock samples that are currently stored by the Perseverance Rover on Mars. The future mission is earmarked for $949 million to launch samples from the Martian surface as early as 2030, up from the $800 million originally allocated to the mission the year before.

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NASA’s Mars Sample Return mission got a part Of the total funding for science, which comes to $8.26 billion in the 2024 budget. Some of the missions highlighted as part of the budget include the James Webb Space Telescope, the Nancy Grace Roman Telescope (scheduled for launch in 2027), the Europa Clipper mission to study Jupiter’s moon ( scheduled for launch in 2024), and the ExoMars mission.

ExoMars, a collaboration between the European Space Agency (ESA) and its Russian counterpart, was supposed to be launched this year, but The mission suffered an unfortunate delay After the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The European Space Agency has cut ties with Russia, and NASA may step in to help launch the craft by 2028.

Based on the 2024 budget, NASA wants to maintain a low-Earth orbit presence (at least until 2030), establish a presence on and around the Moon, and get humans to Mars in the near future. The proposed budget appears to be the seal of approval for the space agency’s ambitious plans. We hope Congress sees it the same way.

more: NASA will soon reveal who will fly to the moon on the Artemis 2 mission

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