- Russia could leave the International Space Station immediately after 2025, its deputy prime minister said.
- Roscosmos, the NASA equivalent of Russia, aims to launch its own space station by 2030.
- Such a move could put an end to a decades-long relationship in space that has survived political tensions on Earth.
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Russia could drop 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’s departure in a Sunday television interview, reported in English by TASS news.
According to TASS, Borisov did not promise to leave, but noted that Russia’s existing commitment only extends until the end of 2024 and that Russia was not satisfied with the current state of the ISS.
Russia has been involved in the ISS, contributing equipment and astronauts, since its launch in 1998. The ISS is the only manned space station.
A few days later, on Wednesday, the head of the Russian space agency Roscosmos spoke about an independent Russian space station operating until 2030, according to The Guardian and the Financial Times.
The first module for the Russian space station will be ready by 2025, said the Russian space agency, Roscosmos.
The agency is said to be waiting for the final approval of President Vladimir Putin to continue. Reports in the Russian press differed on the likelihood of this happening.
In 2020, the ISS celebrated 20 years of continuous human occupation, even though engineers gave it a life expectancy of 15 years. The space station is starting to show signs of aging, with broken toilets and 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 Ryikhov said in an interview.
The continuation of the collaboration after 2024 will depend on a technical inspection, Rogozin said in a press briefing.
He rejected the suggestion that a Russian departure would be sudden. “We are talking about our gradual exit from this project,” he said on Facebook in response to a user comment, TASS reported.
If it happens, a Russian departure would be a blow to decades of US-Russia cooperation in space. Russia and the United States, along with other partners, have worked 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 1970s.
The separation between the space programs of the two nations has increased in the last two 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 too “US-centered” and a “departure of our American partners from the principles of cooperation and mutual support that developed during cooperation on the ISS,” The Verge reported.
China and Russia have also refused to sign the Artemis Agreements, a US-based agreement aimed at governing space exploration rules.