After sharp statements, regarding exiting the ISS project already after 2024, Russian officials seem to have sobered up and informed their American colleagues that Russia would like to continue sending its astronauts aboard the International Space Station at least until 2028. It is by this time that Russia’s own space station is supposed to be built and put into operation, reports Reuters.
The rift in the ISS program appeared to be finally formed on Tuesday, when Yuri Borisov, the newly appointed director general of Russia’s Roscosmos space agency, surprised NASA by announcing that Moscow intended to withdraw from the space station partnership “after 2024.”
NASA space operations chief Kathy Lueders told Reuters that Russian officials told the US space agency later on Tuesday that Roscosmos wished to remain in the partnership as Russia worked to launch its planned orbital outpost, called ROSS.
“We’re not getting any indication at any working level that anything’s changed,” Lueders said, adding that NASA’s relations with Roscosmos remain “business as usual.”
The space station, a football field-sized science laboratory orbiting about 400 km above Earth, has been in continuous operation for more than two decades as part of a partnership led by the US and Russia that also includes Canada, Japan, and 11 European countries.
The ISS project is one of the last vestiges of cooperation between the United States and Russia, although its fate has been called into question since Russia staged a full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February, worsening bilateral relations on multiple fronts. The war also caused tensions between Roscosmos and the European Space Agency (ESA).
An official agreement on the continuation of Russia’s participation in the ISS after 2024 has not yet been reached. NASA, Roscosmos, ESA, and other partners of the station plan to discuss the prospect of each other’s continued presence on the station until 2030 during a periodic meeting on Friday of the board that oversees the station’s management, Lueders said.
The American and Russian segments of the space station were intentionally built to be interconnected and technically interdependent, so any sudden cessation of Russian cooperation aboard the ISS could seriously disrupt a central part of NASA’s human spaceflight program.