Why is ISS lifespan only 30 or so years ?

EL PIC

Techno Cat
Dec 21, 2019
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Presently some 22 years old we hear of age related problems. This seems to be a very short useful life span. What is the plan to increase stations lifespan ?
 
May 25, 2021
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The one we have now was modular add ons. Not one solid structure. Kinda like a mix and match. And they say it's a mess inside there.
 
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Wolfshadw

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Apr 1, 2020
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I'm assuming that most, if not all, of the internal components have been upgraded at sometime over the last 22 years. I know I wouldn't want to be up there using a 22 year old computer. All I could do would be sign on to AOL and maybe play the original DOOM! (j/k).

I think we're dealing with structural integrity more than anything else. At some point, you're just going to have to jettison some of the modules as it would be inefficient to repair them.

Also, let's not forget that 20-30 years in space is an awfully long time to be in such a hostile environment. I think that if we could create some soft of artificial electro-magnetic field to cocoon a future station in, we might be able to stretch it's life-span.

Another thing to remember is how fast technology advances. We may have technology, today, that we never even conceived of 30 years ago. The problem is, there may not be a way to make it compatible with what is currently up there.

-Wolf sends
 
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May 25, 2021
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It was better when a Suttle could go up there and repair / update things.
But of course the Shuttles are old and outdated also. And they were falling apart. Launch and reentry can be very brutal on just about anything.
The bumping and vibration alone can be devastating. That and human error, which was the root cause of us loseing two of them. And the loss of very experienced crews.
 
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EL PIC

Techno Cat
Dec 21, 2019
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It was better when a Suttle could go up there and repair / update things.
But of course the Shuttles are old and outdated also. And they were falling apart. Launch and reentry can be very brutal on just about anything.
The bumping and vibration alone can be devastating. That and human error, which was the root cause of us loseing two of them. And the loss of very experienced crews.
True !
But building a structure with out ability to service repair and maintain is Ludicrous.
Miss the shuttle but they declined to redesign this needed technology. Hubble also misses it and is in the same position as ISS.
Reusability and cost effectiveness should not apply only to rockets and needs to be applied every where.
 
May 14, 2021
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Some ships and aircraft can last upward of 30 years, but they have the ability for refurbishment on a regular time schedule. We don’t have dry dock facilities for ISS. There are a few cars and trucks 30 years old still out there, but that’s rare compared to what was built.
What would be needed for any space station are easily replaceable modules, solar arrays, etc. Make each one completely self contained so they don’t have to run cables and other services through hatch ways defeating the compartmentalization concept for safety.
 
May 25, 2021
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The Shuttle astronauts repaired the Hubble. The Shuttle was like a pickup truck. Pics of inside the ISS show it is very cluttered up. Wires and tubes hanging down and floating around. And the toilets mess up a lot. One astronaut said she was very glad to get out of there.
 
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Dec 3, 2019
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The ISS may be cluttered and 'old' by modern standards but, nevertheless, it remains the largest structure ever built in space. It is an important historical artefact, I believe the current plan is to deorbit the structure into the ocean when it is finally decommissioned but I believe that such important objects such as this and the Hubble should be saved for future generations (Imagine the Egyptians dismantling the Pyramids!). Perhaps a project should be put together to deorbit the structure to the surface of the moon, omething for future tourists to look at.
 
May 14, 2021
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I think so, too. Could become a future museum. But, it’s the tax money that pays for it, and many taxpayers don’t care about space, let alone saving something like the ISS. It’s their money, too.
 
Dec 3, 2021
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I think so, too. Could become a future museum. But, it’s the tax money that pays for it, and many taxpayers don’t care about space, let alone saving something like the ISS. It’s their money, too.
I mean, the two richest people in the world are obsessed with space, I don't think that the finances of it would be too hard.
 
Dec 3, 2019
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I still think that deorbiting the ISS into the ocean is a bad idea. Would it cost that much to place it on the surface of the Moon, I don't know but it may be feasible as it is an important historic artefact.
 
Nov 19, 2021
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The ISS weighs 400 tons. Putting it on the Moon would require around half the energy that got it to low Earth orbit. Our largest rocket, SLS, can put 86 tons to LEO. It would take about five flights of SLS to move ISS to the Moon. At $4 billion apiece the total cost would be about $20 billion, or one year of NASA budget. They are unlikely to look favorably at such an expenditure since it provides no scientific return.
ISS is not designed to withstand the stresses of being sent to the Moon. It would have to be disassembled and reassembled. Double my previous estimate of cost.
 
Dec 3, 2021
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The ISS weighs 400 tons. Putting it on the Moon would require around half the energy that got it to low Earth orbit. Our largest rocket, SLS, can put 86 tons to LEO. It would take about five flights of SLS to move ISS to the Moon. At $4 billion apiece the total cost would be about $20 billion, or one year of NASA budget. They are unlikely to look favorably at such an expenditure since it provides no scientific return.
ISS is not designed to withstand the stresses of being sent to the Moon. It would have to be disassembled and reassembled. Double my previous estimate of cost.
I mean, it doesn't need to go all the way to the moon. Even just shifting it into a high earth orbit would drastically increase it's lifespan, as well as massively decreasing the chance of a catastrophic debris collision.
 
Nov 19, 2021
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Moving the ISS to a high Earth orbit would require about 5 km/s delta v, which is about two thirds of the energy needed to put it on the Moon. Instead of costing $20 billion it would cost about $12 billion.
There would be no scientific return, thus there is no interest in the scientific community in spending any money at all in doing anything but deorbiting it to the South Pacific.
 
May 14, 2021
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The Apollo command modules, the Shuttles, Soyuz craft were returned as they were necessary to return crewmwmbers. The other components, of the programs, the MIR, Skylab, and everything else are considered nonessential therefore disposable. Anything like ISS relocated to another orbit or the moon would be considered not value added. And the components would only deteriorate even more rendering them even more non useable.
 
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Aug 7, 2022
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I would imagine that the limited lifespan of the ISS isn't an oversight, but intentional. There was probably a vision of creating something greater than what the International Space Station could ever become; even if it is a modular structure. In other words, the ISS was/is likely a simple stepping stone to much grander space-based projects.
 
Jan 29, 2020
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Contractor related maybe. A company like Boeing is still just barely big enough mid-Covid not to fail. But an Orbital might go down. If there is only major investment every 40 years, you are left with companies not suited to your priorities. Space power beaming might be there if this were a long-lasting 1982 Reagan investment, but solid-state lasers emerged instead of chemical. I would keep $2.5B Metamaterials going a a future contractor. The way accounting is, you might miss a bond payment if you have one bad year, but steady pork keep creditors getting cash.
 
Dec 29, 2019
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True !
But building a structure with out ability to service repair and maintain is Ludicrous.
Miss the shuttle but they declined to redesign this needed technology. Hubble also misses it and is in the same position as ISS.
Reusability and cost effectiveness should not apply only to rockets and needs to be applied every where.
Building with acceptance of limited lifespans is done because it is more cost effective; it seems very reasonable - the opposite of ludicrous. Disposable rockets have done most of what we have done in space to date and will probably continue being done for a long time yet.

It can be cheaper to build another Hubble or ISS than fix it and replacements will benefit from what is learned. For beyond Near Earth it is currently all uncrewed missions, where providing repair and maintain capabilities looks ludicrous. Reliability and durability sufficient for the mission should be the priority and it is even more important for crewed mission; the ability to do repairs so remote from parts and service providers, under such extreme conditions will always be very limited.
 
Nov 19, 2021
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I believe humans are going to be needed in orbit and beyond for a long, long time. Robot repair is still orders of magnitude cruder than the human hand. I want to see a robot remove the old threads from a ripped seam on a shirt, thread up a needle and stitch a repair. Make it look nice.
 
Dec 29, 2019
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I believe humans are going to be needed in orbit and beyond for a long, long time. Robot repair is still orders of magnitude cruder than the human hand. I want to see a robot remove the old threads from a ripped seam on a shirt, thread up a needle and stitch a repair. Make it look nice.
It isn't a choice between astronaut repairs and robot repairs, it is between being repairable or being replaceable. Replaceable is currently better.

Relying on repairs simply won't be worth it - not if the solution requires astronauts to be on hand, that requires much more equipment - equipment that also needs to be ultra-reliable. More expensive in most cases than replacement, I suspect by a very large margin.

I've seen estimates of manual tasks taking around 3x as long as they would on Earth - dexterity in a spacesuit is slow and laborious. Replacing Hubble will be cheaper than ongoing maintenance and repairs.
 
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Nov 19, 2021
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By your logic, Hubble would have been replaced 5 times, which is the number of times it was serviced.
Human repair is only an option in close environs to Earth, beyond that self repair or loss is the only affordable option.
 
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Dec 29, 2019
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By your logic, Hubble would have been replaced 5 times, which is the number of times it was serviced.
Human repair is only an option in close environs to Earth, beyond that self repair or loss is the only affordable option.
I've seen estimates of US$10 billion spent on maintenance and repair for a $1.5 billion telescope, so replacement 5 times sounds about right, with enough left over for a 6th. Even without subsequent ones probably being cheaper to build.
 

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