International Space Station to crash down to Earth in 2031
The International Space Station (ISS) will continue working until 2030, before plunging into the Pacific Ocean in early 2031, according to Nasa, News.Az reports.
In a report this week, the US space agency said the ISS would crash into a part of the ocean known as Point Nemo.
This is the point furthest from land on planet Earth, also known as the spacecraft cemetery.
Many old satellites and other space debris have crashed there, including the Russian space station Mir in 2001.
Nasa said that in the future space activities close to Earth would be led by the commercial sector.
The ISS - a joint project involving five space agencies - has been in orbit since 1998 and has been continuously crewed since 2000. More than 3,000 research investigations have taken place in its microgravity laboratory.
However, it is only approved to operate until 2024 and any extension must be agreed by all partners.
Nasa said the plan to retire the ISS marked a transition to the commercial sector for activities in low-Earth orbit - the area of space close to Earth.
"The private sector is technically and financially capable of developing and operating commercial low-Earth orbit destinations, with Nasa's assistance," said Phil McAlister, director of commercial space at Nasa Headquarters.
In 2020, Nasa awarded a contract to Texas-based company Axiom Space to build at least one habitable module to be attached to the ISS. It has also provided funding to to three companies to develop designs for space stations and other commercial destinations in orbit.
It is hoped that these new projects will be in at least partial operation before the ISS is retired.
Nasa said it wanted to create a "robust, American-led commercial economy in low-Earth orbit".
The commercial sector is already an important part of the US space programme, with private companies responsible for delivering crew and cargo. Russia's Soyuz and Progress spacecraft are also used.
According to Nasa, it will save $1.3bn (£956m) by transitioning to the private sector for activities in low-Earth orbit, money which instead can be spent on deep-space exploration.