The ESA recently announced plans to develop a station halfway to the moon. This station would, I presume, serve as the next international station replacing the ISS. While I understand that the ISS is aging and some modules are at the end of a useful life (see this question), there are still sections that have lots of life left such as newer modules and the truss assembly. What are the obstacles to keeping these sections by pushing them to higher orbits and utilizing them in a new larger station. Considering the cost of getting anything up there it would seem appropriate to re-use whatever we can. So what are the obstacles in reusing portions of the station?

A corollary question: What parts/sections of the ISS would be salvagable?


1 Answer 1


Short Answer: No.

The problem is that the ISS is a HUGE satellite. The biggest thing in the Earth's orbit besides the Moon. Even if you remove sections, you would need to boost those sections up to a higher orbit. The fuel and engine to boost the sections would need to launched and that is not cheap. Also logistically to start the salvage process of the ISS is difficult. So many manned space flight hours. I doubt when designing the sections they thought about dismantling so those pieces are most likely staying together. Also there is a power issue. The power onboard the ISS is specific to the ISS. Everything is designed for that wattage/amperage/voltage (I am not an EE), so the new space station would need to follow the old ISS standards, which is highly unlikely. I am sorry to say that we might see a complete end to the ISS in our lifetime.

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    $\begingroup$ The fuel and engines to boost the orbit are much cheaper than the cost of a new module. Power is an interesting issue, but I would think one that can be adapted. If you think in terms of the cost per pound to get it there, the station modules are valuable. $\endgroup$
    – Ashlar
    Jun 24, 2016 at 12:55
  • $\begingroup$ This is not entirely true. A proposed Russian station, OPSEK, would extract and re-use Russian ISS modules. As for the ISS, "might" is an understatement; it is predicted to be decommissioned in the 2020s (or maybe 2030s at the latest). At that time it will probably de-orbit and drop into an ocean, which will be quite the global event. $\endgroup$ Apr 13, 2017 at 11:39

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