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SpaceX is building a NASA craft to intentionally destroy the International Space Station after retiring

NASA will have a spacecraft from Elon Musk's SpaceX guide the International Space Station's destruction later this decade, the agency announced Wednesday.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration awarded an $843 million contract to SpaceX to build the so-called "U.S. Deorbit Vehicle." The spacecraft will be designed to guide the football-field-sized research laboratory back into the Earth's atmosphere after retiring in 2030.

The SpaceX-built vehicle will effectively destroy the ISS by pushing the station into reentry from orbit.

"It is crucial to prepare for the safe and responsible deorbit of the International Space Station in a controlled manner," NASA said in a press release, with the U.S. Deorbit Vehicle needed to "ensure avoidance of risk to populated areas."

NASA did not specify whether SpaceX's design for the U.S. Deorbit Vehicle will be based on one of the company's existing spacecraft, such as its Dragon capsules. SpaceX and NASA did not immediately respond to CNBC's request for comment on the design.

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The U.S. – along with four international partner agencies representing Russia, Europe, Canada, and Japan – has been preparing for the eventual end of the ISS, which has been crewed since 2000. The ISS, primarily created as a crewed research laboratory, has seen more than 3,300 experiments conducted in microgravity. That includes research not possible on Earth such as medical sciences and technology demonstrations.

But the ISS is aging, with NASA and its lead partner Roscosmos, unable to solve a worsening problem of microscopic leaks on the station.

NASA published a study on Wednesday with analysis of why it decided to intentionally