NASA has published a proposal for American companies to design and build the US Deorbit Vehicle (USDV), a special ship that will be able to deorbitalize the International Space Station after its lifetime. This is stated on the official website of NASA.
As of now, the ISS’s lifespan has been extended until 2030, but in January 2031, the 450-ton station is to be deorbited and sunk in the Pacific Ocean at the so-called Spacecraft Cemetery. This is a completely closed to shipping area of the South Pacific Ocean, 3,900 kilometers from the New Zealand city of Wellington at 43°34′48″S, 142°43′12″W, where several dozen spacecraft are sunk annually.
The heavy weight of the station makes controlled de-orbiting a challenge. It was previously planned that several Russian Progress cargo ships would provide the de-orbiting impulses. But NASA research has shown that this scheme will not work properly. In addition, the United States cannot rely on Russia as a reliable partner now, and it is not known what will happen in 2031.
That’s why NASA is proposing to develop its own ship to deorbitalize the ISS – the United States Deorbit Vehicle (USDV). It can be either a modification of an existing ship or a completely new vehicle. As with any project of this magnitude, it will take years to develop, test, and certify the USDV. NASA hopes to have it done by 2031.