Russia will leave the ISS 'after 2024'

Russia will leave the ISS ‘after 2024’

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Russia announced on Tuesday that it would stop participating in the International Space Station (ISS) “after 2024”, raising the question of its survival, amid Russian-Western tensions due to the Russian offensive in Ukraine.

A model of international cooperation bringing together Europe, Japan, the United States and Russia, the ISS began to be assembled in 1998. Its retirement was planned for 2024, but NASA estimated that it could operate until 2030.

Russia plays a key role in keeping the station in orbit, but some of its ships are affected by Western sanctions due to the assault on Ukraine.

” Taken by surprise “

The Russian announcement of the withdrawal from the ISS comes ten days after the appointment at the head of the Russian Space Agency (Roscosmos) of a new boss, Yuri Borissov, who replaced Dmitry Rogozin, known for his abrasive style. and its outrageous nationalism.

“We are no doubt going to fulfill all our obligations with regard to our partners” from the ISS, declared Mr Borissov, received at the Kremlin by Russian President Vladimir Putin, “but the decision to leave this station after 2024 was socket “.

A few minutes later, NASA said it had not received “official” notification of such a withdrawal after that date. “From what I understand, their public announcement took us by surprise,” said US State Department spokesman Ned Price on Tuesday, assuring that Washington considered this decision “regrettable” in view of the ” precious collaboration” that the Russian and American space agencies have maintained for years.

Russia and the United States had notably announced on July 15 to resume their joint flights to the ISS: two American astronauts must thus fly aboard Russian Soyuz spacecraft during two separate missions while two Russian cosmonauts will fly for their part on board of SpaceX rockets, a first.

Russian space station

Mr Borissov, however, indicated on Tuesday that Russia would begin to create a “Russian orbital station”, which will become “the main priority” of the national space program. “The future of Russian manned flights must be based above all on a systemic and balanced scientific program so that each flight enriches us with knowledge in the space field”, he specified.

For Russian space analyst Vitali Egorov, this decision will mean “a break of several years for Russian manned flights”, because Russia is far from having its own infrastructure in orbit. “There will be no Russian orbital station in 2024, 2025 or 2026,” he told AFP: “Creating a good orbital station in three years is almost unreal. “.

According to Mr. Egorov, even “with the most generous funding, it will take at least ten years”. Thus, the Russian company RKK Energia, which designs and builds Soyuz spacecraft, said on Tuesday that the construction of the Russian orbital station would not begin before 2028.

“If the decision on its construction is taken by the end of the year, the first stage will begin in 2028 with the launch of an energy and science module by an Angara rocket,” said RKK’s general builder Energuia, Vladimir Solovyov, quoted by the state news agency RIA Novosti.

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