- Russia could leave the International Space Station as soon as 2025, its deputy prime minister said.
- Roscosmos, Russia’s NASA equivalent, aims to launch its own space station by 2030.
- Such a move could end a decade-long relationship in space that survived political pressures on Earth.
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Russia could leave the International Space Station to focus on its ambition to launch its own space station by 2030, Russian officials said.
Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Borisov raised the prospect of Russia traveling in a Sunday interview with state television, reported in English by the TASS newswire.
Per TASS did not commit Borisov to leave, but noted that Russia’s existing commitment only extends to the end of 2024 and that Russia was not satisfied with the current state of the ISS.
Russia has been involved in the ISS and has contributed equipment and astronauts since its launch in 1998. The ISS is the only space station with people on board.
A few days later, Wednesday, the head of Russia’s space agency Roscosmos reported that an independent Russian space station was operational in 2030, according to the Guardian and the Financial Times.
The first module for the Russian space station will be ready in 2025, Russia’s space agency, Roscosmos, has said.
The agency is said to be awaiting the final approval of President Vladimir Putin to continue. Reports in Russian media have been mixed about how likely it is to come.
In 2020, the ISS celebrated 20 years of continuous human occupation, though engineers gave it a 15-year life expectancy. The space station is starting to show signs of age with broken toilets and air leaks.
A Russian cosmonaut who returned to Earth from the space station on April 17 said there was no reason to leave the ISS.
“The condition of the station is quite good,” Sergei Ryzhikov said in an interview.
The continuation of the collaboration after 2024 will depend on a technical inspection, Rogozin said during a press briefing.
He pushed back on the suggestion that a Russian departure would be abrupt. “We are talking about our gradual exit from this project,” he said on Facebook in response to a user comment, TASS reported.
If that happens, a Russian departure would be a blow to decades of cooperation between the United States and Russia in space. Russia and the United States, together with other partners, have been working together to keep the space station operational since 1998.
It has been a bastion of international cooperation between the two nations since their collaboration on the Apollo-Soyuz Test project in the 70s.
The separation between the two nations’ space programs has increased over the last few years.
Earlier this year, Russia signed an agreement with China to build a space station on the Moon after rejecting NASA’s plan to return to the moon.
Rogozin had previously criticized the US plan as being “US-centric” and a “departure from our US partners from the principles of cooperation and mutual support that developed during cooperation on the ISS,” The Verge reported.
China and Russia also refused to sign the Artemis Agreements, a US-led agreement aimed at governing space research.