Russia says NASA space station retirement less imminent than previously indicated

The International Space Station (ISS) photographed by Expedition 56 crew members from a Soyuz spacecraft after undocking, October 4, 2018. NASA/Roscosmos/Handout via REUTERS/File Photo

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WASHINGTON, July 27 (Reuters) – Russian space officials have informed their U.S. counterparts that Moscow wants to continue flying its cosmonauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS) until their own orbital outpost be built and operational, a senior NASA official told Reuters on Wednesday. .

Coupled with remarks from a senior Russian space official released on Wednesday, the latest indications are that Russia is still at least six years away from ending an orbital collaboration with the United States that dates back more than two decades.

A schism in the ISS program seemed closer on Tuesday, when Yuri Borisov, the new director general of the Russian space agency Roscosmos, surprised NASA by announcing that Moscow intended to withdraw from the partnership with the space station “after 2024”. Read more

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NASA chief of space operations Kathy Lueders said in an interview that Russian officials told the US space agency on Tuesday that Roscosmos wants to stay in the partnership as Russia works to set up its fore- planned orbital station, named ROSS.

“We don’t get any indication at any level of work that anything has changed,” Lueders told Reuters on Wednesday, adding that NASA’s relationship with Roscosmos remained “business as usual.”

The space station, a science laboratory the size of a football field and orbiting some 250 miles (400 km) above Earth, has been permanently manned for more than two decades as part of a partnership led by the United States and Russia which also includes Canada, Japan and 11 European countries.

It offers one of the last vestiges of U.S.-Russian cooperation, though its fate has been in question since Russia invaded Ukraine in February, straining bilateral relations on various fronts as the Biden administration imposed economic sanctions on Moscow.

The Ukrainian conflict has also sparked tensions between Roscosmos and the European Space Agency (ESA).

A formal agreement to extend Russia’s participation in the ISS beyond 2024 has yet to be reached. NASA, Roscosmos, ESA and the station’s other partners plan to discuss the prospect of expanding their mutual presence on the lab until 2030 during a periodic meeting Friday of the board of directors that oversees management. of the station, Lueders said.

Roscosmos published on its website on Wednesday an interview with Vladimir Solovyov, the flight director of the space station’s Russian segment, who reportedly said that Russia must remain on the station until ROSS is operational.

Solovyov said he expects ROSS to be fully assembled in orbit by 2028.

“We must of course continue to operate the ISS until we create a more or less tangible backlog for ROSS,” Solovyov said. “We have to take into account that if we stop human spaceflight for several years, then it will be very difficult to restore what has been achieved.”

The American and Russian segments of the space station were deliberately built to be intertwined and technically interdependent, so any abrupt withdrawal of Russian cooperation aboard the ISS could seriously disrupt a centerpiece of the manned spaceflight program of the ISS. Nasa.

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Reporting by Joey Roulette; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Will Dunham

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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