Russia says it probably won’t leave the International Space Station in 2024 after all. The country does not want to do that until its own space station is operational, but that is expected to take many years. Russia is talking about 2028 at the earliest.
Russia is thus backing away from what it said on Tuesday. The country has been threatening to withdraw from the International Space Station since the invasion of Ukraine, but that plan was officially confirmed on Tuesday. The new Roscosmos boss Yuri Borisov then confirmed in a conversation with Vladimir Putin that “the decision to stop the ISS after 2024 has been made.” Shortly afterwards, it turned out that the soup was eaten less hot than it was served: NASA said it knew nothing and Roscosmos also gave no official confirmation.
Russian space workers have now told NASA that Russia will continue to send cosmonauts to the ISS until Russia builds and launches its own operational space station. That’s what a NASA employee says against Reuters. “We have no indication that anything has changed,” NASA says.
After the International Space Station, Russia wants to continue with its own space station, the Russian Orbital Service Station, or ROSS. Those plans have been ready for at least fifteen years, but have never progressed beyond the drawing board. In an interview on the Roscosmos website Vladimir Solovyov, who is responsible for the Russian part of the ISS, already said that the ROSS will not be ready until around 2028 at the earliest. Experts doubt that: such a station would be very expensive and the Western sanctions would make it difficult to set up such a high-tech project. Solovyov said in that interview that Russia would like to remain active on the ISS until then, so certainly 2028. “We have to bear in mind that if we stop crewed flights for a few years, it will be very difficult to restore what we have built up to this point.”