The ISS is nearing its final years and this question spurred me to ask a follow up.

Let's say that the various countries grab whatever equipment/modules they provided in assembly and the ISS is geared to perform the retrograde burn and eventually splash down in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. Is there (or would there be) a plan to disassemble the station to smaller "chunks" before reentry?

My armchair aeronautics engineering advice would be to disassemble the station and have several known entities reentering rather than deorbiting the whole station and have it break up into several unknown entities. Is that a reasonable/feasible plan or does it not really matter since the ocean is huge and all of the dangerously-moving debris will be confined to a safe area?


1 Answer 1


This overview of the 2010 version of the ISS end-of-life disposal plan makes no mention of deliberately breaking up the station.

Because a substantial propulsive maneuver is being used to control the time and location of reentry (over the Indian and South Pacific oceans, rather than the Atlantic, as it happens), there would be no safe time window in which to dismantle the ISS. There would be less than an hour between end of the burn (which has to be done to the whole station at once) to the beginning of reentry.

  • $\begingroup$ Any idea what the delta-V would be (just a ballpark is kosher)? $\endgroup$ Oct 15, 2018 at 21:16
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ My back-of-the-envelope estimate was ~50m/s. space.stackexchange.com/a/24357/195 $\endgroup$ Oct 15, 2018 at 21:44
  • $\begingroup$ 50m/s doesn't seem too bad, but I'll admit that my KSP skills are a bit rusty as it's been a hot minute since I last played. :) $\endgroup$ Oct 16, 2018 at 13:08

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