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Leaving the International Space Station July 31, 2022

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
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The news that Russia is leaving the International Space Station from 2024 is hardly a massive surprise, though a disappointment. There’s a problem for Russia, though, because this isn’t just a retreat from the ISS but potentially from human-rated spaceflight.

Yuri Borisov, the newly appointed head of the space agency Roscosmos, said during a meeting with Vladimir Putin that Russia would fulfil its obligations to its partners on the ISS before leaving the project.

“The decision to leave the station after 2024 has been made,” Borisov said, to which Putin responded: “Good.”

So what next? There’s talk from the Russians about launching their own space station, but this would appear to be little more than rhetoric. As one analyst noted:

Independent space analyst Vitaly Yegorov said it was next to impossible to build a new orbiting station from scratch in a few years, especially in the current circumstances.

Russia is heavily reliant on imports of everything from manufacturing equipment to consumer goods and the effects of Western sanctions are expected to wreak havoc on the country’s economy in the long term.

“Neither in 2024, nor in 2025, nor in 2026 will there be a Russian orbital station,” Mr Yegorov told AFP.

He added that creating a full-fledged space station would take at least a decade of “the most generous funding”.

That seems a stretch at the best of times, in the context of the invasion of Ukraine it seems entirely implausible. 

It is possible that this will have further ramifications, because, after all, if Russia isn’t going to the ISS where exactly is it going in space?  This site has long criticised the US approach of depending upon commercial operators and still does, but one could make the argument that there is a network of state and non-state actors on the US (and European) side that even absent the ISS (and it looks as if its longevity might be shaky after the departure of the Russians) will offer actual reasons for human spaceflight in Earth orbit and further afield. 

Mr Yegorov said Russia’s departure from the ISS meant Moscow might have to put on ice its programme of manned flights “for several years” or even “indefinitely”.

The move could also see Russia abandon its chief spaceport, Baikonur, which it is renting from the former Soviet republic of Kazakhstan, Mr Yegorov said.

And:

But experts say Roscosmos is now a shadow of its former self and has in recent years suffered a series of setbacks, including corruption scandals and the loss of a number of satellites and other spacecraft.

In fairness to Borisov he hasn’t sugared that pill.

At his meeting with Mr Putin, Mr Borisov admitted that the space industry was in a “difficult situation”.

He said he would seek “to raise the bar and, first of all, to provide the Russian economy with the necessary space services”, which he said included navigation, communication and data transmission.

It is depressing to see Russia retreat from space in this manner given their pre-eminence at the start of the Space Age. That it is so unnecessary, and avoidable doubly so. 

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