Complete assembly of the station was not completed until 2011. Its retirement was scheduled for 2024, but NASA estimates it could operate until the 2030s. This extension was subject to congressional approval. Biden’s election confirmed this and it was the Biden-Harris administration that decided to extend the International Space Station until December 31, 2030.
In 2030 the question of deorbiting this massive aged space object was considered. It’s a delicate and ultimately very expensive operation, as this video from CNES in May 2021 explains.
This was without taking into account the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which will poison relations between the European Union and its main partners, the United States, which will put the issue back on the table sooner than expected.
Russia plays a key role in keeping the station in orbit.
“The Russians were good partners.”
Russia’s announcement to withdraw from the ISS comes ten days after he was replaced by the new boss of the Russian Space Agency (Roscosmos), Yuri Borisov, who replaced Dmitry Rogozin, known for his abrasive style and outrageous nationalism.
“We will undoubtedly fulfill all our obligations to our partners” Yuri Borisov of the ISS announced that he was welcomed by Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Kremlin. “But it has been decided to leave this station after 2024”.
Minutes later, NASA said it had received no notification. “official” After that date such withdrawal.
“We have not received any official statement from our partner regarding today’s news”NASA’s ISS director Robin Gatens said at a space conference in Washington. “So we’re going to discuss their plans further.”
The US wants the Russians to withdraw from the ISS, Robin Gatens replied: “No, not at all. They’re good partners, as all of our partners are, and we want to continue together as a partnership to operate the space station for a decade.”
The space station is the result of a huge international collaboration and NASA has repeatedly said that it could not operate without the contributions of various partners.
Conversion to a commercial offering
But NASA has already begun preparing for the transition to a commercial station. It is already helping them develop and it wants to employ their services after the ISS retires Thus it announced in December 2021 to allocate the following funds to three non-governmental organizations:
- Blue Origin of Kent, Washington, for $130 million
- Nanorox LLC, in Houston for $160 million
- Northrop Grumman Systems Corp. of Dulles, Va., for $125.6 million
“Like us, the Russians are wondering what’s next for them.”Delayed by Robin Gatens. “As we’re planning a post-2030 transition to commercial LEO stations, they have a similar project. So they’re thinking about that transition as well.”
“I think we’ll start building the Russian orbital station by then.”who will “top priority” of the National Space Program, Yuri Borisov continues.
“The future of Russian manned flight must be based on a systematic and balanced scientific program so that each flight enriches us with knowledge in the space field.”He specified.
What is the future of human spaceflight?
For Russian space analyst Vitaly Egorov, the decision will make sense “Year-long hiatus for Russian-operated flights”Because Russia does not have its own infrastructure in orbit.
“There will be no Russian orbital station in 2024, or 2025, or 2026”He told AFP: “Building a good orbital station in three years is almost impossible”. According to Vitali Egorov, even “With the most generous funding, it will take at least ten years”.
Until his appointment as head of Roscosmos in mid-July, Yuri Borisov, 65, held the deputy prime minister’s portfolio in charge of the Russian military-industrial complex, which includes the space sector.
He indicated in front of Vladimir Putin that he wanted to deliver “Above all space services essential to the Russian economy”, specifically citing navigation, communication and data transmission. There are many areas where Moscow lags behind the Americans.
Russia’s offensive against its Ukrainian neighbor since February 24 has reduced Russian-Western cooperation in space.
Western sanctions adopted in the wake of this partly affect the Russian space industry and may affect the ISS, some of whose supplies may be disrupted.
Cooperation has deteriorated due to the war in Ukraine
The previous head of Roscosmos, Dmitry Rogzin, has already hinted that Russia is going to abandon the idea of extending the life of the ISS until 2030 because of this. He confirmed in March that the ISS would exist without the Russians. Crash on Earth because only the Russian side has the means to correct the orbit of the 500-ton structure.
If Russia has ambitions to re-enter the space race independently, it has faced serious problems over the years, particularly endemic corruption that has slowed its program and innovation.
Space cooperation had not suffered much from Russian-Western tensions until the attack against Ukraine.
But several projects have been affected by the war in Ukraine in recent months.
The European Space Agency (ESA) has announced the suspension of the Russian-European ExoMars mission and is exploring options to launch four other missions.
For its part, Moscow has suspended OneWeb satellite launches, which have been turned over to Elon Musk’s American company SpaceX.