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Russians confirm plan to leave ISS in 2024

The competition heats up: Russian space managers have confirmed that they have endorsed a plan to leave ISS in 2024, when they will assemble their own space station using new modules as well as a significant number of the modules attached to ISS.

On February 24, 2015, the Scientific and Technical Council, NTS, at Roskosmos, the main planning body at the agency led by a newly appointed chairman and the former head of the agency Yuri Koptev, formally endorsed the Russian participation in the ISS program until 2024. It would be followed by the separation of Russia’s newest modules from the ISS to form the new national space station. As previously reported on this site, the initial configuration of the station would include the Multi-purpose Module, MLM, the Node Module, UM, and the Science and Power Module, NEM. Notably, the original Russian ISS component — the Zvezda Service Module, SM — was not included in the plan, thus ensuring that its propulsion capabilities would be available for deorbiting of the outpost at the end of its operational life.

Whether ISS will be functional with just the Russian Zvezda module is not clear. NASA engineers now have about a decade to figure this out and to fix it.

In general the break up of the partnership running ISS will be good for space exploration. The competition between nations will spur development and innovation. It will also free each nation from the shackles of the partnership. The Russians in particular have wanted to utilize ISS for more daring and longer expeditions to research interplanetary travel, and were stymied by NASA’s bureaucracy. Once they start doing this sort of thing on their own station NASA will feel obliged to follow.

Obviously, competition between nations carries risk. As long as there is some agreed to framework for claiming territory on other planets (something that the U.N. treaty does not allow), the nations will be able to compete peacefully. Without that framework, however, will leave room for disagreement and conflict.

It is thus essential that the space-faring nations sit down and work out this framework, and do it as soon as possible before each nation has vested interests in space that are already in conflict with each other. Above all, this new framework has got to abandon the U.N. space treaty with its rules that forbid the claiming and controlling of territory by nations in space. Those rules were never realistic, and literally guarantee that nations will eventually end up at war with each other as they fight to determine who owns what in space.

Pioneer cover

From the press release: From the moment he is handed a possibility of making the first alien contact, Saunders Maxwell decides he will do it, even if doing so takes him through hell and back.

Unfortunately, that is exactly where that journey takes him.

The vision that Zimmerman paints of vibrant human colonies on the Moon, Mars, the asteroids, and beyond, indomitably fighting the harsh lifeless environment of space to build new societies, captures perfectly the emerging space race we see today.

He also captures in Pioneer the heart of the human spirit, willing to push forward no matter the odds, no matter the cost. It is that spirit that will make the exploration of the heavens possible, forever, into the never-ending future.

Available everywhere for $3.99 (before discount) at amazon, Barnes & Noble, all ebook vendors, or direct from the ebook publisher, ebookit. And if you buy it from ebookit you don't support the big tech companies and I get a bigger cut much sooner.


  • geoffc

    They are leaving Zarya and Zvezda, which leaves the ISS as it looks today. Except Pirs or Poisk (forget which one) will be discarded and replaced with the MLM. They will then take MLM with them, which means that docking port may not be usable afterwards, leaving 3 useful ports for Soyuz/Progress/ATV. With Commercial crew delivering half the crew via PMA docking ports not an issue.

    The ISS will be fine in this model. The new modules, still not launched as of Feb 2015 will just be used as core of new station on their own.

  • PeterF

    When life hands you a lemon, make lemonade. To me, this just looks like a golden opportunity for private space.

  • pzatchok

    Simple rules.

    If you don’t use it or colonize it then its up for grabs. Just like it used to be.
    Boots on the ground is all that matters in the end.

  • D.K. Williams

    Is anything of significance really being accomplished on ISS? If not, it’s just a very expensive hotel.

  • You should read Leaving Earth to find out the answer to your question. I’ve said it more times than I can count: If we wish to settle the solar system we have to learn how to build interplanetary spaceships, and a space station is where you do this.

  • Edward

    In this talk, the presenter talks of the advantages of experiments in zero gravity: (one hour)

    In one interview, in a video she presented, the experimenter (at 29 minute mark) explains that the knowledge gained in microgravity is used to figure out how to control a process so that the same useful result can be done on Earth.

    From the video: “The problem was that the three different liquids had three different densities, so on Earth they stratify into layers. As a result, it is hard to get them to come together and form little micro balloons and form a skin in the right proportions. When we go to microgravity, surface tension takes over and all liquids go syrupy, so it becomes much easier to put a sphere in another sphere and form a skin around the outside. And the trick was to learn how to control those conditions so that eventually we could make them on Earth.” Thus, a way to deliver chemotherapy drugs directly to cancer cells rather than to the whole body can be developed and mass produced in the inexpensive Earth environment rather than in the expensive orbital environment.”

    One of the popular things to do in space is to find out what is possible, then figure out how to do the same thing inexpensively on Earth. They did experiments of this kind on the Space Shuttle, too.

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