ISS will be closed by 2020. Are there any other space stations planned to be put in orbit in decade 2014-2024 that have really chances to be built?

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    $\begingroup$ See China, People's Republic of. $\endgroup$ Jul 28 '13 at 16:10
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    $\begingroup$ It would be interesting if someone could gather available information about China's plan and form an answer... $\endgroup$ Jul 29 '13 at 6:55
  • $\begingroup$ @Gwenn can apparently read Chinese and dig for stuff in this language. Do you mind going for an answer here :-) ? $\endgroup$
    – s-m-e
    Jul 31 '13 at 16:56
  • $\begingroup$ @robguinness How about now, brown cow? $\endgroup$
    – geoffc
    Aug 2 '13 at 14:55
  • $\begingroup$ Hello from the future :) The same old mess of modules and duct tape is still flying. $\endgroup$ Oct 25 '20 at 15:18

Possible US based future stations

Bigelow Aerospace, has launched two pathfinder station models (Genesis I in 2006 and Genesis II in 2007). I think they are both still in orbit, not active. They licensed the Transhab technology from NASA and ran with it. The pathfinder modules were not human habitable.

They have primarily been waiting for someone to be able to deliver passengers and cargo, that they can pay to deliver them. Bigelow tried offering a $50 million prize, and a contract for services in order to spur development a bunch of years ago, but it did not succeed in generating the service they needed.

Bigelow plans on building a commercial station for 'rent' to national governments who wish to have a 'space' program, but cannot afford to develop it from scratch.

The BA-330 model is meant to have 330 Cubic meters of space, and originally they had planned 2 BA-330's sharing a connecting node with a smaller module, as a station. Looks like they are suggesting on BA-330 by itself should suffice now.

With SpaceX (Falcon9/Dragon), Boeing (Atlas5/CST-100), and Sierra Nevada Corp (Atlas 5/Dream Chaser) all working to deliver passengers to ISS, the side effect should be options for Bigelow.

Bigelow had to downsize staff for a while, once core development was done, since they were still several years away from commercial crew options. The expectation is once SpaceX/Boeing/SNC can deliver crew, they will ramp up fairly quickly.

In the interim, NASA has contracted Bigelow to attach a module to the ISS as a demonstration. It is not really meant to be a proper module, since it will be maintained with its hatch closed, and only opened periodically for testing. However, it is a great next step. Of course, this is to be brought up as an external trunk payload on a Dragon/Falcon9 launch in 2015. Which gives you a feel for its size, if it fits in the Dragon trunk. This seems MUCH smaller than a BA330 and smaller than even the Genesis I and II modules currently in orbit.

Possible Chinese future stations

The Chinese have expressed their plans for a station as part of a three phased approach. The first two were manned launches, that they have declared operational. The third phase starts with the Tiangong-2 space laboratory to be launched in 2015, with an experimental core space station module around 2018. The ultimate aim is to build a 60-ton multi-module space station by 2020.

They are limited by the size of their launchers, the Long March 5, and the coming Long March 7. Thus they will take the Russian/Soviet approach that Mir took, of a core module, with additional modules docked to it. (I distinguish this from ISS, which of course is a series of modules docked together, since the ISS has a number of elements that were not delivered with their own propulsive systems. May be a bit of a quibble).

This article, is a good discussion of the various Chinese space ambitions and strategies.

Space.com has a nice infographic on what it might look like:

enter image description here

Possible Russian stations

The Russians have been testing the current ISS modules, to see if they could detach and use as the base modules of a new station called Opsek.

enter image description here

  • $\begingroup$ NASA has actually contracted with Bigelow to provide a module for the ISS: nasa.gov/home/hqnews/2013/jan/… $\endgroup$
    – css
    Jul 31 '13 at 18:26
  • $\begingroup$ @css True. But this is a smaller, subscale model. Tiny compared to a BA330, and I think small compared to a Genesis I or II module. Additionally, they intend to keep the door closed, only opening it regularly to check conditions. So barely used as a module. More of a technology demonstrator. $\endgroup$
    – geoffc
    Jul 31 '13 at 18:50
  • $\begingroup$ Yep. Although, I think I read somewhere at some point that if the technology demonstration went well, NASA planned on calling for a module for actual usage. I can't find the reference at the moment though. $\endgroup$
    – css
    Jul 31 '13 at 19:00
  • $\begingroup$ @css Fair enough. But this is coming so late in the ISS game it is easy enough to imagine the ISS being retired before NASA gets its rear in gear enough to actually contract for a Bigelow module for real. But you never know... $\endgroup$
    – geoffc
    Aug 1 '13 at 12:54

There are multiple plans for new space stations. Bigelow Aerospace plans on completing their next-gen commercial space station by 2014. However, the future of space stations lies with the Chinese who plan to build on the success of the Tiangong-1 with the Tiangong-2 and the Tiangon-3 with the expectation of large manned station by 2020. This is coincidentally the same year the the ISS is de-orbiting, so we shouldn't be without a foothold in space for long.

With the current landscape of space exploration being dominated by governments, the Chinese are more likely to be successful due to the fact that, unlike companies like Bigelow, they don't need to return a profit. That, along with the Chinese trying to prove their dominance in space, means that most likely the next big space station will come from China

  • $\begingroup$ My money is on Bigelow, not the Chinese. They appear (that is the key, appear, proof is in the pudding) to have a solid business model). $\endgroup$
    – geoffc
    Jul 31 '13 at 18:51
  • $\begingroup$ While I hope Bigelow is successful, I just think that time has shown that the only organizations capable of space exploration are large governments. $\endgroup$ Jul 31 '13 at 19:01
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    $\begingroup$ I do sincerely hope that companies like Bigelow and SpaceX are able to commercialize space exploration, but I don't think that will happen in this decade. $\endgroup$ Jul 31 '13 at 19:03

"RKK Energia" has a plan to take the new ISS modules and use them as the base for the new station. Those modules will be launched no earlier than 2014 and will still have enough of resource in 2020.

  • MLM Nauka scheduled for the launch in April 2014
  • UM the Nodal Module
  • NEM the Science and Energy Module

One of the design goals is an unlimited life time of the station (given the timely exchange of the old modules for the newer ones).

Among the proposed tasks of the station are a fueling station and a construction dock.

Source: the interview with the President of RKK Energia on MAKS-2013.


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