Friday, April 6, 2018

What Comes After the ISS?

I asked somebody who works with the ISS what she thought would come next.

She...temporized (Sorry to put you on the spot).

So, what will come after the aging ISS in terms of human habitation in LEO. Here's some predictions:

1. The ISS won't actually go away. Instead it will be updated until it becomes Theseus' boat (no original components). Axiom Space, run by NASA veterans, is planning on launching extra modules to be attached to the existing station.

2. Somebody will build a space hotel. That somebody might be Orion Span - although their ambition plan to launch by 2021 seems unlikely when they haven't revealed their technology...or who they plan on contracting for the launch. More likely than the new startup is SpaceX itself. Musk has made no secret about it being his goal. The likely cost of a stay? Oh, probably about a million dollars to start with.

3. The Chinese will actually get it right. They don't have a good record so far, and their new modular space station is worrying a few people as they weren't able to properly de-orbit their last one (thankfully it hit the Pacific not anything important). But they have enough resources and brains to throw at the problem that they will get their own station up there.

So, that's three thoughts on the matter. I really think 1 and 2 are very likely. (In fact, it's becoming a minor science fiction trope that Earth's main station has the ISS buried in the middle of it somewhere. Perhaps part of it will be preserved as a museum?)