Having announced its withdrawal from any projects within the International Space Station after 2024, Moscow intends to focus its future on the Ross Station.
Washington sees it as a ‘regrettable’ decision. Russia’s choice to leave the International Space Station “after 2024” marks an important turning point in international cooperation in space.
“It has been decided to leave the station after 2024,” Russian space agency director Vladimir Putin said during a filmed interview, adding that Russia would continue to honor its commitment as a partner until now.
An expected and sad announcement
What other partner countries expected it? On the US side, claims that the withdrawal of the Russians from the ISS was a real “surprise”.
“However, the Russians have been talking about 2024 for years,” Olivier Sangui, scientific mediator at the Cité de l’Espace in Toulouse, told BFMTV.com.
The European Space Agency insisted that Moscow’s decision was “not new and has been noted before”.
Olivier Sangui explained that it was NASA that tried to push back the deadline for this Russian departure, with the American agency not yet ready to maintain the station in its orbit. The International Space Station is based on a combination of two parts: the first, the Russian, is responsible for keeping the ISS in orbit with the Zarya module while the American-European-Japanese-Canadian part is responsible for the electrical power and the good performance of scientific experiments on board the spacecraft.
“They are all trained to work together, and they are in a situation where they can only work together”, explains France information Isabelle Sorbes-Verger, Research Director at CNRS specializing in cooperation in space exploration.
This decision is the place of war in Ukraine
An interdependence that other partner nations were counting on until 2030, the year the station will retire. So the statement from the Russian space agency sounds like a new rift between Moscow and the West?
“It’s an appeasement after all,” analyzed Olivier Sangui for BFMTV.com, “With the war in Ukraine, the previous director of Roxams was very vindictive: he attacked Presidents Biden and Macron and almost hinted that Russia could leave the ISS overnight.
Didier Schmitt is of the same opinion. The head of human and robotic exploration strategy at the European Space Agency even sees a “rather diplomatic” approach on Roscosmos’ part. “In a way, they invite NASA to prepare to maintain the station alone from 2025 if they leave”, he developed. Le Figaro. Olivier Sangui explained that this is actually the result of a “multi-faceted decision” if Kiev, in opposition to Moscow for several months, “confirms its desire to abandon the ISS before the 2030 deadline”.
The arrival of the SpaceX capsule, billionaire Elon Musk’s company, to the ISS may also play a role in the decision. “We no longer need their ships to join the International Space Station”, recalled Isabelle Sorbes-Verger for France Information. While Russia has effectively lost its monopoly on transporting astronauts with its Soyuz launchers and ships, Americans and Europeans have been able to depart American soil again with Crew Dragon capsules.
“There’s an element of cooperation in the space program but a strong element of sovereignty,” recalls Olivier Sangui for BFMTV.com, “Through space, a state demonstrates what it’s capable of, it’s a bit of a show of excellence.”
A new glimpse of space conquest
The choice of calendar by the Russians is no coincidence: 2024 is the year that Roscosmos has set itself to launch the first module of its own orbital station called ROSS (Russian Orbital Service Station). It will, from this date, be the “main priority” of the Russian space program, Yuri Borisov said on Tuesday. is asked by Le FigaroDidier Schmitt didn’t see Russia stopping the ISS “before finding another solution to send their astronauts”.
Moscow is following Beijing here, which has already launched the first module for its own Chinese space station. And two great powers are about to join forces for a project of another magnitude with one main objective in their sights: the moon. They face other ISS partner countries that have joined the Artemis program with the lunar-orbiting Gateway Station, the first two modules of which will launch in 2024.
Is a new space race launched? “It’s a real debate in the space community […] The reality is that we have at least one simulation for an important geopolitical position”, judge Olivier Sangui of BFMTV.com.