Russia and NASA have been on the alert for years. Threats to leave the International Space Station are no surprise.

The International Space Station above the blue earth's clouds

The International Space Station, as pictured from SpaceX Crew Dragon Endeavor during flight on November 8, 2021.NASA

Russia talks about abandoning NASA on the International Space Station. Although the news shocked many and inspired a flurry of headlines, the threat is neither new nor particular.

A NASA-Russia agreement on the International Space Station is under renewal in 2024. NASA has already committed to maintaining the station until 2030, but the Russian space agency, Roscosmos, has been questionable about the partnership for years. On Tuesday, the head of the agency made an official statement on this issue to President Vladimir Putin.

“Of course, we will fulfill all our obligations to our partners, but the decision to withdraw from the station after 2024 was made,” Yuri Borisov, the new director general of Roscosmos, told Putin at a meeting. times.

“I think that by this time we will begin to form the Russian orbital station,” he added. “Good,” Putin said.

Vladimir and Yuri Borisov in suits sitting at a table in the wood-panelled office room

Russian President Vladimir Putin (left) meets with Roscosmos President Yuri Borisov at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, on July 26, 2022.Mikhail Klementev/Sputnik/Kremlin Pool Image via Associated Press

While space enthusiasts wring their hands, the exchange didn’t shock space policy enthusiasts. Borisov’s predecessor, Dmitry Rogozin, who was sacked by Putin earlier this month, has repeatedly made similar threats.

“This has been seen as coming for the past two or three years,” John Logsdon, founder of the Space Policy Institute at George Washington University, told Insider, adding, “It’s nothing new.”

NASA officials told reporters that Russia had not informed them of any new decisions.

“We’ve seen this story many times before. Color me skeptical of any immediate changes,” Casey Dreyer, senior space policy advisor at The Planetary Society, said. He said on Twitter on Tuesday.

International Space Station astronauts

Astronauts from the United States and Europe stand with Russian cosmonauts on the International Space Station, on September 27, 2019.European Space Agency / NASA

On Wednesday, Kathy Luders, chief of human spaceflight at NASA, told Reuters she had received word from Russian officials that they intend to continue cooperating on the International Space Station until the completion of their own space station. In a statement on Friday, translated by Google, Borisov predicted a “torrent” of technical malfunctions in the Russian part of the International Space Station after 2024. He added that at that point, investing in a new Russian space station would be more economical.

“Whether it’s in the middle of 2024 or in 2025 – it all depends,” Borisov said.

When Russia leaves the International Space Station, it won’t necessarily be a disaster for NASA. The agency had been preparing to operate the station without Russia for nearly a decade, as relations between the two space powers soured.

“The Russian announcement is not surprising, and a repeat of their current commitment to 2024 is helpful for planning,” Scott Pace, director of the Space Policy Institute, said in a written statement shared with Insider. “What will happen after 2024 is still not fully known, and the real question is when to begin in-depth technical discussions about *how* the transition will be managed (rather than whether there will be a transition).”

NASA has been preparing for a break from Roscosmos for nearly a decade

Sergey Ryazansky Cosmonaut Sergey Ryazansky

Russian cosmonaut Sergei Ryazansky takes a break during a six-hour spacewalk to assist with assembly and maintenance on the International Space Station, on August 22, 2013.Johnson Space Center

Roscosmos and NASA have had a strained partnership from the start. Even while the two agencies were building the first parts of the International Space Station, NASA was making contingency plans. In the late 1990s, Russia was behind schedule to build the Zvezda service module that would be an essential component of the station. NASA has built a backup unit in case Zvezda never shows up.

A decade later, NASA became dependent on Russian hardware. When the space shuttle program ended in 2011, only the United States could transport its astronauts to and from the International Space Station aboard the Russian Soyuz spacecraft.

To roll back this dependence, the Obama administration began funding private development of human-classified spacecraft. The result, SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spaceship, regularly transports astronauts to and from the International Space Station.

NASA Astronaut Doug Hurley SpaceX Crew Dragon Space Capsule demo2 demo 2 stretcher landing mission Premium machine gun ok August 2, 2020 50186691872_3d34f9f15a_o edit

SpaceX workers help NASA astronaut Doug Hurley out of the Crew Dragon spacecraft “Endeavour” after it crashed into the Gulf of Mexico, on August 2, 2020.Bill Ingalls/NASA

NASA’s remaining dependence on Russia is based on the ISS itself. The station is built for interdependence: the Russian side relies on solar arrays in the western section for energy, and the station cannot maintain altitude without regular boosters from progressive Russian spaceships, which fire their boosters to push the station a little higher about once. Month.

NASA is learning how to perform “orbital re-enhancement” maneuvers with the Cygnus spacecraft developed by contractor Northrop Grumman. It conducted a successful test of the maneuver in June, a week after the initial test attempt failed.

Silver cylinder of the cygnus spacecraft with two orange and black circular solar arrays under a long robotic arm high above brown earth with lakes

Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus cargo spacecraft is photographed moments after being captured by the ISS robotic arm, on February 21, 2022.NASA

It’s unclear what a move to the International Space Station without Russia might look like. According to Pace, the main challenges will be orbital recycling operations, replacement of ground support for Moscow, and deciding what to do with Russian modules and other ISS hardware.

“I am confident, without having any specific information, that the United States and its partners have considered what can be done,” Logsdon said. Otherwise, he added, they would be “negligent in the performance of their duty.”

The space alliance between the United States and Russia is becoming increasingly tense

Firing missiles in the past for people watching and taking pictures

The Soyuz MS-10 spacecraft was launched with astronauts from NASA and Roscosmos, on April 9, 2021, at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.NASA / Bill Ingalls

Over the years, the NASA-Roscosmos partnership has involved public squabbles. In 2014, Russia announced that it would expel NASA from the International Space Station by 2020 in response to US sanctions over its invasion of Crimea. The threat did not come to fruition.

Last year, a Roscosmos official accused a NASA astronaut of having a mental breakdown and drilling holes in the Soyuz spacecraft in 2018. NASA has vehemently denied the accusations.

Spaceships docked at the space station above the night Earth

European Space Agency astronaut Thomas Pesquet pictures the Russian Soyuz spacecraft and the NAOKA module on the International Space Station, above Earth, on September 15, 2021.European Space Agency/NASA-T. biscuits

In November, Russia launched a missile at one of its defunct satellites as a weapons test. The explosion scattered thousands of pieces of high-speed debris through Earth’s orbit, forcing the International Space Station crew to retreat to their spaceships in case they had to exit in an emergency, drawing condemnation from NASA.

Tensions escalated when Russia invaded Ukraine. Rogozin, who at the time led Roscosmos and is known for his flamboyant tweets, got into heated Twitter discussions with former NASA astronaut Scott Kelly and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk, a NASA contractor. Rogozin even I suggested Russia may abandon the International Space Station to collide with Earth.

Three astronauts standing with a blue and red striped flag inside a space station

Russian cosmonauts Oleg Artemyev, Denis Matveev and Sergey Korsakov pose with the flag of the Luhansk People’s Republic on the International Space Station, in this photo released July 4, 2022.Roscosmos/Reuters

Astronauts projected flags and pictures on the International Space Station supporting the Russian invasion and occupation of Ukraine, citing reprimands from NASA officials.

The United States and Russia are planning to go their own way after the International Space Station

A bright moon rises in a dark blue sky behind the top of an orange NASA rocket

The moon rises past NASA’s Space Launch System, which it is building to return astronauts to the moon, at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, on June 14, 2022.NASA / Ben Smeijlsky

Outside the International Space Station, the American and Russian tracks diverge. NASA is funding the development of commercial space stations by three companies – Blue Origin, Nanoracks and Northrop Grumman. Her plan is to become a client, renting a room and a laboratory at an orbital station operated by a private company.

Roscosmos says it is planning its own space station, but it hasn’t shared many details.

“You can take that with caution, given the general economic situation,” Logsdon said.

base camp

Artist’s concept of the Artemis base camp on the moon.NASA

NASA and Roscosmos aim to build new space stations on the Moon, but not together.

NASA has concluded a set of agreements for the new age of lunar exploration, called the Artemis Agreements, which have been signed by 20 other countries. Russia and China have not signed the agreements. Instead, they said they plan to build their own base, together, on the moon.

“I think there will be international cooperation among like-minded nations, and the addition of Russia to the ISS will be seen as a policy artifact at a point in time, not as setting a pattern for the future,” Logsdon said. .

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