How feasible would it be to move the ISS to the surface of the Moon to recycle its components in future?

I don't want to take them to the moon. I'm thinking of a manufacturing/recycling center somewhere in Earth obit. LEO would be best, but is also most crowded. MEO or EML4/5 might work.

I am thinking of some kind of robotic space tug to sweep up the junk to a place where it can be cannibalized.


  1. physics of grabbing and moving the satellite
  2. transferring ownership (position it as a service, not space piracy)
  3. determine re-usability.

    • second life for solar panels seems obvious
    • high value electronics (most too old to be worth recovering)
    • metals - is it cheaper to reuse than to launch new from Earth?

This will probably be much more practical when we have an O'Neill class habitat in orbit. What infrastructure would need to be in orbit to make it work? What baby steps can we take toward Blue Origin's mission of moving heavy industry to space?

  • $\begingroup$ Add to your list of issues (and, I suggest bumping it up to the #1 spot): Delta V required to move the tug (with or without another spacecraft in tow) from one orbit to another. $\endgroup$ Sep 19, 2019 at 16:37
  • $\begingroup$ If we have O'Neill habitats, would we need the whatever small gains we could get from stuff that's in LEO? seems like we would be far past that $\endgroup$
    – Stickyz
    Sep 23, 2019 at 13:30

1 Answer 1



  • They are distributed over too wide an area to efficiently collect them. The amount of fuel required by your 'robotic space tug' alone will probably counter all advantages.
  • They are individual and very specific instruments; each would require a different dismantling procedure, leaving you only with the option of shredding and possibly melting them. Even the solar panels you mention would require humans to disassemble.
  • Separating the different components (which would be easiest when shredded, not molten), takes complex installations.
  • The amount of material is very little, since they were designed to be as light as possible.
  • The recycled materials are then available at one specific location in space. You will have to transport them all elsewhere.
  • If 'elsewhere' is in space, you would need to build and launch production facilities to actually use the materials. Even the construction of each one of those is many times more expensive then when built on Earth.
  • That transport will always require fuel, even if you 'drop' your recycled materials back to Earth.

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