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Currently, as far as I know, the Chinese are building their own "ISS". I heard that they are open to welcoming most EU countries.

Does anyone have heard any news on building a newer "Space Station"? I am not sure China would open the doors to their Space Station to the USA... And, building a completely new one from scratch is just too expensive I think...

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    $\begingroup$ "I am not sure China would open the doors to their Space Station to the USA" – There is also the Wolf Amendment which prohibits NASA from using government money to interact directly with China or Chinese companies without prior authorization by the FBI and Congress. $\endgroup$ Feb 23 at 12:46
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    $\begingroup$ Beyond ISS (which grew out of the US Space Station Freedom in the 1980s), we are going beyond LEO. Lunar Gateway space station's first two modules (PPE and HALO) are planned to launch together on the Falcon Heavy rocket in November 2025. Though not as large as the ISS, with less participants, it is another international collaboration. $\endgroup$ Feb 23 at 19:30
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    $\begingroup$ In 2022, it was reported that Russian intended to leave the ISS after 2024 & not participate in future foreign space stations. $\endgroup$
    – Fred
    Feb 25 at 1:40

4 Answers 4

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As far as I'm aware there are no plans to build another "ISS". Instead NASA and ESA are helping to fund various commercial space stations:

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Probably the first question is what a future International Space Station is trying to do.

The current ISS exists for many reasons, and the result is at best described as functional with many limitations and complications that those involved would probably rather not deal with in the future. In particular it is in nobody's best interest to invest heavily in the long term future in case other involved parties suddenly pull out.

At the time of creation it was all that could be afforded but along with the politics of superpower co-operation there are also practicalities relating to what the station is to do, with the current ISS not fully meeting anybody's needs.

It would be reasonable to expect the future to include multiple facilities featuring some combination of:

  • National projects existing for politics
  • Commercial/research projects existing to do things
  • Tourism projects existing to visit
  • Exploration related projects supporting going places

These all have different preferred inclination, and altitude (lower is cheaper, high needs less long term reboost due to lower drag).

They will also have different risk tolerances, desire to publicize activities onboard and willingness to use commercial sponsorship that do not neatly package into a single 'thing'.

Fundamentally, like ships and aircraft, it makes sense for a space station to have a single controlling authority, with all others involved being explicitly subordinate.

As such it would seem a new truly International facility with shared management and decision making is unlikely in LEO, but might occur as further out where local practicalities and high support costs may mean more than earth politics.

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  • $\begingroup$ What I have seen is that the Chinese Space Station was very modular, I am not sure what other activities they perform but do you think they might include those facilities you listed or will be limited to research projects and the focus in the future is building commercial space stations? I am starting to think that manned missions are going to become more obsolete... $\endgroup$ Feb 23 at 9:12
  • $\begingroup$ @YiQiangJi suggest doing some reading on the manned vs unmanned since that has gone several cycles in the last couple of decades. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manned_Orbiting_Laboratory and en.wikipedia.org/wiki/STS-61, at core though there is a reason why in 2024 there are thousands of satellites but only two manned space stations. $\endgroup$ Feb 23 at 10:53
  • $\begingroup$ @YiQiangJi politics also unfortunately means while events in Ukraine are in recent memory and the Chinese Taipei/Taiwan situation exists the number of third parties committing to long term involvement (eg attaching modules) with Tiangong will be limited $\endgroup$ Feb 23 at 11:23
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    $\begingroup$ @GremlinWranger: "there is a reason why in 2024 there are thousands of satellites but only two manned space stations" – Although not all of those perform scientific research. In fact, over one third of all objects ever launched to orbit in the history of mankind and over 60% of all currently active satellites are just Starlink. $\endgroup$ Feb 23 at 12:53
  • $\begingroup$ @YiQiangJi - as GremlinWranger advises, it is probably worth looking beyond LEO now - and there we are looking at Lunar Gateway, a space station which Artemis program participants plan to assemble in an orbit near the Moon, serving as a communication hub, science laboratory, and habitation module for astronauts. It is a multinational collaborative project. It will serve as the staging point for both robotic and crewed exploration of the lunar south pole and is the proposed staging point for NASA's Deep Space Transport concept for transport to Mars. $\endgroup$ Feb 23 at 19:27
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NASA and other partner space agencies are looking beyond LEO for the next collaborative space station. The Lunar Gateway Program is developing a space station that will orbit the moon in support of Artemis missions and aid in development of technologies for future deep space missions.

enter image description here

Planned components include:

  • NASA supplied Orion crew vehicle
  • Canadian Space Agency (CSA) supplied Canadarm3 robotic arm
  • European Space Agency (ESA) supplied:
    • International Habitat (I-Hab)
    • ESPRIT Refueling Module (ERM)
    • HALO lunar communications system (HLCS) to enable high-data-rate communications between the lunar surface and Gateway.
  • Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) provided:
    • I-Hab’s Environmental Control and Life Support System (ECLSS), thermal control system functions, and cameras.
    • Batteries
    • HTV-XG spacecraft for resupply missions
  • Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre (UAE) provided airlock

enter image description here

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That depends. Right now, government space agencies have their sights set pretty much on getting people back to the Moon for longer term stays and getting people to Mars after the decommissioning of the International Space Station. There currently are plenty of private, civilian space stations planned for Earth orbit, including several space hotels and the Orbital Reef, which is essentially a professional office park in orbit. Earth orbit is gradually being turned over to the private sector.

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  • $\begingroup$ "Earth orbit is gradually being turned over to the private sector." Well it's clear the private sector is participating more as launch costs/kg plummet, but I don't think "turned over" is the right verb - there's more and more secret and military presence all the time as well, and I don't see that being privatized any time soon. $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Apr 18 at 5:45
  • $\begingroup$ this offers no information more than the existing answers $\endgroup$
    – Erin Anne
    Apr 18 at 6:35
  • $\begingroup$ Do you have references for your claims? What government space agencies are actively working on getting people to Mars? $\endgroup$ Apr 18 at 12:08

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