Russia’s Roscomos, the country’s space agency, has announced that it plans to withdraw from the ISS or the International Space Station after 2024. The announcement was made by Yuri Borisov, the new head of the Russian space agency.
Borisov also said that Russia’s future efforts would focus on building a new Russian space station.
The ISS has two halves or major modules, one used and maintained by a team of Russian cosmonauts and one operated and maintained by several nations.
To keep the ISS in orbit, both sides must be maintained and kept up to date from time to time as well simultaneously. With Russia withdrawing from the ISS, there is a perfect chance that the ISS may need to be decommissioned much earlier.
Currently, active agreements on the ISS operate until the end of 2024, and the station needs Russian modules to stay in orbit. The US and its partners who use the other half of the space station have been seeking to extend the station’s life to 2030.
While Russia’s announcement does not constitute a breach of any agreement nor an immediate threat to the station’s daily operation, it does mark the culmination of months of political tensions involving the ISS.
Although both sides conduct experiments and studies by the objectives of their agencies, there are several different studies where both sides of the ISS participate.
Furthermore, Russia operates six of the 17 modules of the ISS, including the Zvezda module, which has the central engine system of the ISS.
This engine is vital not only for the station’s ability to remain in orbit but also to thrust it into different directions and move out of the way of space debris. Under the ISS agreements, Russia retains complete control and legal authority over its modules.
Russia’s space agency has not revealed where they would allow their ISS partners to take control of Russian modules, although anything of that sort is doubtful.
It’s also unclear whether it would be possible to separate the Russian modules from the rest of the ISS, as the entire station was designed to be interconnected.
It was also envisioned that in the early stages of space tourism, the ISS would act as a halfway halt for tourists and scientists before they would go on to their final destinations. This arrangement was supposed to be in place until a new halfway station orbiting the earth was operational.
Several space travel and tourism startups who had pinned their hopes on the ISS will have to develop a new plan or reorient their targets.