Are there plans for another space station when the ISS is deorbited or de-manned? What are the details of these plans, if any?

Bonus: How would a space station be built without the Space Shuttle?


For specifically the ISS, there are no replacement plans yet. Besides, China is about to set-up its own (big) space station. In a way, this could become the next habitable place in low Earth orbit.

You do not need a space shuttle for building a space station. MIR was built without the shuttle. Similar to the segments of the Russian part of the ISS, the blocks of MIR were all their own independent space crafts, including individual attitude and orbit control systems. Docking could be done via remote control or even automatically.

  • 8
    $\begingroup$ Of course, only the Russians and Chinese (ESA borrowed Kurs for ATV) have automated docking systems. (US Dragon, Cygnus, Japanese HTV do not dock, they berth. Just come into range, and CanadaArm2 berths them). $\endgroup$
    – geoffc
    Jul 17 '13 at 14:52

A trivial answer could be: the same kind of station.

The Russians will keep producing modules of Salyut-Mir-Zvezda and TKS-FGB lineage, with futher Soyuz-Progress modifications for transportation.

The Europeans will keep building their MPLM modules and ATV based spacecrafts.

US will keep producing Dragons, integrated truss structure components and MPLM based modules.

China will participate with Tiangong modules and manned transportation on Shenzhou spacecrafts.

While Russian and Chinese habitable modules have their own propulsion systems, and hence are able to get to the station by themselves, the European and US modules are not.

Therefore, there will be a need for a powerful space tug able to bring 10-15 ton components to the station. It can be based on TKS (similar to FSM used to bring 11 tons Kvant-1 module to Mir). But Russia will hardly be able to produce enough space tugs to construct all the station in reasonable time. And 11 tons is probably the maximum for Proton buster + FSM tug combination.

So there will probably be another one in the same range, something US could spend its spare money on to speed things up and to have some independence and control in the project.

For the smaller, 1-5 tons loads (the size of Cupola, Poisk module or Dextre) the existing ATV and Progress propulsion system or Dragon thrusters
should be enough.


Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy