The BBC article The Astronaut Fighting to Save our Home in Space discusses “experienced astronaut, and astrophysicist Dr Michael Foale”'s exciting career aboard the Space Shuttle, Soyuz, Mir, and ISS, and now current efforts to find future backers for the ISS after its current mission (and funding) might come to a close.
But the station’s days are numbered. Funding by the various space agencies involved is only agreed until 2024. This means in just six years’ time, the most expensive structure ever built will be pushed out of orbit by a Progress spacecraft to disintegrate over the Pacific.
And the countdown clock is ticking.
“Year by year, Russia is launching the fuel to fill up the tanks of the ISS service module to enable the space station to be deorbited,” says Foale. “That’s the current plan – I think it’s a bad plan, a massive waste of a fantastic resource.” (emphasis added)
Since the ISS' large cross-sectional area including the solar panels already leads to continuous loss of altitude requiring regular orbit-raising burns, why would there be such a requirement for so much fuel for de-orbit? Has there a specific plan been developed to de-orbit (if decided) in such a way that it comes down over the Pacific? How much fuel is thought to be needed to do this?