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The International Space Station  (Source: nssdc.gsfc.nasa.gov)
The ISS will be sent into the ocean after 2020

This year, we we said goodbye to NASA's Space Shuttle fleet as DiscoveryEndeavour and Atlantis were placed in retirement after one last flight to the International Space Station. Now, it looks as if we'll be saying goodbye to the ISS in about 10 years as well.

According to deputy head of Roskosmos space agency Vitaly Davydov, the ISS, which is situated 220 miles above Earth and joins space agencies from the U.S., Russia, Europe, Canada and Japan, will be sent into the ocean after 2020.

When the ISS launched in 1998, it was originally expected to orbit for 15 years tops, but an agreement has extended it to a little over 20 years.

"After it completes its existence, we will be forced to sink the ISS," said Davydov. "It cannot be left in orbit, it's too complex, too heavy an object, it can leave behind lots of rubbish. Right now we've agreed with our partners that the station will be used until approximately 2020."

In 2001, space station Mir was also sent into the Pacific Ocean after its 15-year lifespan. The ISS will have the same fate.

It is unclear whether there will be a replacement for the ISS, but Russia announced that it is constructing a new ship that will replace the Soyuz capsule, which is part of the series of spacecraft designed for the Soviet space programme. The ship will be tested starting after 2015, and unlike the Soyuz capsule, the new ship will be a multi-use vehicle rather than single-use.

Davydov added that Russia will compete with the United States in building the new ship.

"We'll race each other," said Davydov.




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