(MOSCOW, Russia) — Russia will pull out of the International Space Station after 2024 and focus on building its own orbiting outpost, the country’s new space chief said Tuesday amid high tensions between Moscow and the West over the fighting in Ukraine.
During a meeting this month with President Vladimir Putin, Yuri Borisov was appointed to head Roscosmos state space agency. He stated that Russia will meet its obligations to its international partners.
“The decision to leave the station after 2024 has been made,” Borisov said, adding: “I think that by that time we will start forming a Russian orbiting station.”
Borisov’s statement reaffirmed previous declarations by Russian space officials about Moscow’s intention to leave the space station after 2024 when the current international arrangements for its operation end.
NASA and international partners want to continue the station’s operation until 2030. The Russians, however, have been unwilling to commit beyond 2024.
NASA had no immediate comment.
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Russia, Canada and the U.S. space agencies jointly operate the space station. Since 1998, the first piece of spacecraft was placed in orbit. The outpost has been continuously inhabited since then. This outpost is used to carry out scientific research in zero gravity, and also test equipment for space travels.
A crew of seven is typical for the station, which orbits approximately 250 miles away from Earth. Three Russians are aboard and three Americans, one Italian and one Italian.
It is approximately as large as a football pitch and consists of two sections. One section is run by Russia while the other one by the U.S.A. along with other countries. The Russian part of the complex will need to be maintained safe and operational after Moscow leaves. It wasn’t immediately known what would happen to it.
The Russian announcement is certain to stir speculation that it is part of Moscow’s maneuvering to win relief from Western sanctions over the conflict in Ukraine.
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Borisov’s predecessor, Dmitry Rogozin, said last month that Moscow could take part in negotiations about a possible extension of the station’s operations only if the U.S. lifts its sanctions against Russian space industries.
With Elon Musk’s SpaceX company now flying NASA astronauts to and from the space station, the Russian Space Agency lost a major source of income. NASA has been spending tens to millions per person for flights from and to the station on Russian rockets over many years.
Roscosmos (NASA) and Roscosmos reached an agreement with Russian astronauts earlier this month. They will continue to ride Russian rockets while Russian cosmonauts can catch SpaceX lifts to and from the station. The flights won’t involve any exchange of money.
NASA and Russian officials said that agreement will ensure the station has at least one American spaceman and one Russian to maintain smooth operations.
Moscow and Washington collaborated in space at the heights of Cold War. When Apollo and Soyuz orbited in space in 1975 on the first crewed international satellite mission, improving U.S.-Soviet relations, it was a historic moment in history.
NASA is working closely with American companies to establish their private space stations that will eventually replace the International Space Station. NASA anticipates these commercial space stations to be in operation by the end of this decade.
AP writer for aerospace Marcia DunnThis report was contributed by Cape Canaveral in Florida.
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