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Russian sanctions could put the future of the ISS at risk

Published Mar 2nd, 2022 3:02PM EST
international space station over Earth
Image: dimazel / Adobe

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The future of the ISS is starting to look a little bleak. Previously, NASA shared that it had extended plans to operate the International Space Station until its retirement in 2030. Now, though, those updated plans could be in jeopardy.

The United States and several other countries have hit Russia with multiple sanctions following its invasion of Ukraine. Many of these sanctions are set to hit the Russian tech sector, including its space agency. On Tuesday, Roscosmos, the Russian space agency, shared that it only has the authority to operate for two more years. That could completely change NASA’s plans to retire the ISS in 2030.

The future of the ISS could be at risk following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine

ISS NaukaImage source: Roscosmos

The Russian space agency cited “current conditions” as the reasoning behind the change. According to an article published by TASS, Roscosmos is skeptical that extending the agreement will even be possible under the new sanctions placed on Russia. However, the agency did say that it is hopeful the US Department of State will stop its pressure on NASA and allow an open dialogue with Russia.

NASA and the Russian space agency have had a good relationship for over two decades now. As such, NASA sounds hopeful that it will be able to continue cooperating with the Russian space agency for international missions like the future of the ISS. However, with these sanctions in place, it is unclear if Russia will continue to work alongside NASA and its other partners on the station.

Moving on without Russia

While some believe they could continue working without Russia’s involvement, a dissolution of the partnership would undoubtedly mean a removal of the Russian Orbital Segment. The ISS was never intended to be taken apart. As such, it could cause some other issues with the station’s normal activities. However, that hasn’t stopped others from stepping up to offer their help in taking Russia’s place.

Following a series of tweets from Roscosmos head Dmitry Rogozin about the risks that come from kicking Russia out of the ISS, Elon Musk stepped in with a tweet of his own. The response was simply a picture of the SpaceX logo. This has led many to speculate about how SpaceX could assist in the future of the ISS.

Currently, the ISS uses Russian spacecraft to adjust the station’s path. These spacecraft also keep it in orbit to ensure it doesn’t come crashing down. While the future of the ISS without Russia may be unknown, some have pointed out that SpaceX Dragon capsules could take the ROS’ place on the ISS. Musk responded to some of these threads. However, no official statement has been given on the subject.

It wouldn’t be impossible for the future of the ISS to move on without Russian involvement. Would it be more difficult? Perhaps. If SpaceX was to step in, it could remove some of the concerns currently surrounding the station’s future. There are, of course, still other concerns to address, though. For now, we’ll simply have to wait and see how communication between NASA and Roscosmos proceeds.

Josh Hawkins has been writing for over a decade, covering science, gaming, and tech culture. He also is a top-rated product reviewer with experience in extensively researched product comparisons, headphones, and gaming devices.

Whenever he isn’t busy writing about tech or gadgets, he can usually be found enjoying a new world in a video game, or tinkering with something on his computer.

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