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New boss of Roscosmos confirms decision to leave ISS in 2024.

Yuri Borisov, the new head of Roscosmos, today confirmed that Russia will leave its partnership at ISS in 2024.

The decision to leave the station after 2024 has been made,” Yuri Borisov, appointed this month to lead the Russian space agency, Roscosmos, said during a meeting with President Vladimir Putin. He added: “I think that by that time we will start forming a Russian orbiting station.”

This announcement leaves several questions.

1. What will happen to the Russian modules on ISS? They cannot function on their own, so undocking them means they either must be de-orbited or attached to another station. Since it is more likely a snowman could exist on the Moon than the Russians launching a new station by 2024, the future of those modules must be negotiated.

2. What will the Russians do once out of this partnership? As I said, they will not be able to launch a new station by ’24. In fact, it is more likely they won’t be able to launch one at all, considering the pervasive corruption that permeates all levels of their technological society. It took them almost a quarter century to complete and launch the newest module to ISS, Nauka, with many many technical problems along the way.

3. Will Russia and China forge a closer alliance in space? I expect Russia will try to negotiate a partnership with China on its space station, but I doubt China will agree to any agreement that makes Russia an equal. It isn’t, and China has no interest in making believe Russia is.

4. Will this force an acceleration in the launch of the American private space stations now under construction? Hard to say. If we had a competent executive branch run by a clear-minded president, some action could be taken to help make this happen. The present Biden administration is neither competent nor clear-minded, so I do not expect much from it. Managers at NASA however might be able to push for increased funding to speed development, but even if successful that carries risk. It will make the private stations more beholden to the government, thus lessening their independence.

All in all, a most interesting situation.

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21 comments

  • sippin_bourbon

    “Will this force an acceleration in the launch of the American private space stations now under construction?”

    It certainly needs to.

    The moment Rogozin hinted at this (before going back on it) should have been a clue.

    Not that Boris Badenov.. I mean, Yuri Borisov has repeated this, they need to get a move on.

    Sadly, I foresee a gap, post ISS, before the commercial platforms are in place. I hope not as long as the gap from Skylab to ISS.

    Something else crossed my mind.
    The Chinese are in full “station production” mode. I wonder if they offered to make some sections for The Russians to purchase.
    (I can see it now, a new Russian station, says “Made in China” on the bottom).
    All humor aside, if anyone can make modules quickly for them, it would be the Chinese.

  • David Eastman

    I expect a ton of congressional histrionics about the need to keep ISS operational, and a lot of money sent to old space companies like Boeing and Lockheed on studies and proposals to that effect. We’ll probably keep it flying long past the date when it should be retired, and hopefully that won’t lead to a disastrous end of life like with Shuttle.

  • Klystron

    Laws of inertia state that the US will end up paying Russia to keep it going longer.

  • Shallow Minded Reader

    Quote Klystron “Laws of inertia state that the US will end up paying Russia to keep it going longer.” You nailed it. Brandon and the Neocons/Libcons will demand sanctions against Russia and pay the Russians BILLIONs to maintain the ISS. Sad……

  • sippin_bourbon

    “Laws of inertia state that the US will end up paying Russia to keep it going longer.”

    Which may very well be a Russian Motivation as well.

  • Andi

    I think you’re right – US will pay them, either to keep it going or to buy it from them outright. Or call their bluff. Will they really take their (half of the) ball and go home?

  • Ray Van Dune

    I wonder how many Russians are smart enough to realize that Putin just threw in the towel on competing with the US, in favor of being Chinese lackeys!

  • Joe

    If we can live without them and keep ISS until 2028, it sounds like a good plan. Why not take the opportunity and really go for modifications to ISS that will extend it further. Cygnus can now perform station boosts. With the Russian segments gone, that should be even easier due to mass reduction. Not seeing a loss here.

  • Jay

    I do follow the Chinese news feeds, looking at their launches, their propaganda for glimpses of their designs, and blatant copying of U.S. designs. Right now China is very proud of their spacecraft, especially their Tiangong-3, which is Chinese copy of the Russian modules dating back to Salyut/Mir. China wants to be independent and if they do a project with Russia, China will be the majority partner.
    Recently China has disclosed that they will have an ESA astronaut visit the station in 2026. I would not be surprised if the Russians have a Soyuz craft dock for a couple weeks for propaganda value.

    I agree, the Russians will not leave in 2024. Where would they go? They will be squatters on the ISS. They claim their own ROSS core module will not be ready by 2030, if it ever gets built. The Russians have not built a new module since the Prichall airlock module in 2011.

  • Ray Van Dune

    What I said earlier notwithstanding, the Russians have always been very adept at conning the US into paying for things while at the same time making us feel guilty about it, and guilt-wrought Democrats are their favorite suckers. Not sure the Chinese will be such easy marks.

  • pzatchok

    Russia can not afford to replace any of the modules on the ISS. And they need it.

    So they will back out until NASA agrees to pay.
    The best decision would be to let them leave, they are doing nothing we can not do on our own, better.

    The ride trade is fare. No cash exchange.

    We need to work out how to trade out the old modules for new ones. And then contract private companies to build new ones quick.

  • Shallow Minded Reader

    Why do you guys think its so important to keep the ISS flying? I have classic cars but I don’t count on them for daily driving. So goes the ISS.

  • Robert Pratt

    I think David Eastman has a very likely prediction.

  • John

    The russian modules can not function on their own, but can the ISS function without the russian modules? Can russia kill the ISS by scuttling its modules?

  • Gealon

    Primarily the Russian segment of the station is responsible for propulsion and fuel storage, with some not so great life support equipment thrown in, like Elektron. If we are serious about cutting the Russian segment loose, we would need a module on station at all times, capable of providing propulsive guidance. While the US side can maintain orientation using it’s gyros for some time, they do need to be de-saturated using thrusters, and currently, only the Russian side can do that. There isn’t anything on the Russian side that we couldn’t replace though, so once we can get something up there to take physical control of the station, we don’t need the Russian segment at all. An upgraded version of the Interim Control Module would do in a pinch.

  • Gealon: I thus wonder if the Axiom modules scheduled for launch in ’24 and ’25 could provide these capabilities, and if not, how practical or easy would it be to add them to one.

  • Jay

    I know it is discontinued, but I am surprised that ESA has not brought up using the ATV for boost capability. It has been done in the past. The ATV has more propellant than a Progress.

    Yes, there are no more Ariane-5 rockets to carry it. You could use an expendable Falcon-9 to put it in orbit or a Delta-4 Heavy.

  • David Eastman

    One thing rarely brought up is that undocking the Russian modules from the ISS, with or without a replacement for any lost capabilities, will be a major evolution with a lot of EVA to disconnect external wiring and such that has been added over the years.

  • Jeff Wright

    I want some HLLV to put up a Skylab II in place of the Russian bits-keep that truss.

  • M Puckett

    Jeff: https://www.gravitics.space/

    Looks like somebody is reading your mind.

    Looks like a 7.6M diameter module has a business case Starship Exclusive unless Bezos comes up with a hammerhead faring for New Glenn, I don’t see those launching on SLS.

  • Edward

    Shallow Minded Reader asked: “Why do you guys think its so important to keep the ISS flying? I have classic cars but I don’t count on them for daily driving. So goes the ISS.

    ISS is not a classic car but a unique laboratory in daily use for studying the effects of zero g, or freefall; we don’t have another space station and won’t for several years, so it is not yet a “classic” to be preserved for historical reference. It became operational ten years ago, and if we shut it down in 2024 we only get a dozen years of experimentation and experience out of it at a total cost averaging around $12 billion per year. If we keep it operational until 2030, we get 50% more out of it, for a total cost averaging around $9 billion per year. The cost per data point drops 50%. We also get that data half a decade earlier than we would by waiting for commercial space stations, and we can apply to those commercial space stations the lessons learned in the additional six years of ISS operation.

    The benefits of keeping ISS operational currently outweigh the costs. We expect future space stations to be much less expensive to build and operate, and those reduced costs come from the lessons learned by previous and current space operations, especially operations aboard the ISS.

    It may seem like a waste to continue a government-run space station, as we have seen by comparing other government-run space projects with commercial space projects. When the government realized that the Space Shuttle was not moving us forward as well as it should, Congress approved a large space station, which turned into the ISS. To replace the failed Space Shuttle, government chose not to move forward by learning from the lessons of the Shuttle, but to move backward and revert to an Apollo-like manned space system. Artemis will be expensive, like Apollo, but will go to the Moon far less often — Apollo was more sustainable than Artemis. Commercial space is moving forward with its manned projects, moving away from Apollo and toward less expensive, more available, and more ambitious projects. Commercial companies are not just trying to build space stations and return to the Moon, but they are pushing to settle Mars. ISS is still producing data that is useful for these endeavors.

    Robert Zimmerman pondered: “I thus wonder if the Axiom modules scheduled for launch in ’24 and ’25 could provide these capabilities, and if not, how practical or easy would it be to add them to one.

    Unless Axiom is planning on adding a propulsion module after separating from ISS, then they will have propulsion and attitude control aboard their modules while they are attached to ISS. These may be underpowered for use on ISS, but they could possibly get the job done. ISS will have more mass and a larger mass moment of inertia than Axiom wants their modules to support, but it may be possible to refuel Axiom frequently. Once again, the incremental cost will be low compared to the benefits achieved.

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