Update: Today, September 27, Russia announced it had signed an agrement with the US to work on the Deep Space Gateway. In a statement reported by the AFP, the Russian space agency Rocsosmos said: “The partners intend to develop international technical standards which will be used later, in particular to create a space station in lunar orbit.”
This historic undertaking will give agencies, not just NASA and Roscosmos, a common goal to work on after the International Space Station (ISS) is retired. Russia and the US will work together to build the technology needed to not only stay in lunar orbit, but also travel back to the surface of the Moon.
“Roscosmos and Nasa have already agreed on standards for a docking unit of the future station,” the statement continued. “Taking into account the country’s extensive experience in developing docking units, the station’s future elements will be created using Russian designs.”
Our story as it originally appeared yesterday before the announcement is below. Full credit to Popular Mechanics for calling it exactly right.
With the International Space Station (ISS) scheduled to be retired by 2024 at the earliest, many are wondering what will happen next. And, well, things still aren’t certain.
First, a report in Popular Mechanics last week suggested that the US and Russia were very much preparing to work together on a new lunar space station to replace the ISS, called the Deep Space Gateway.
Speaking to industry sources, the website claimed that the Russian space agency Roscosmos would announce its intention to join NASA in building the station. This could be used for continued experiments in space, excursions to the surface of the Moon, and even missions to Mars.
It was thought that the head of Roscosmos, Igor Komarov, would announce the news at the 68th International Astronautical Congress in Australia this week. However, Komarov yesterday failed to mention this supposed collaboration.
He did hint that he wanted the US and Russia to continue collaborating, including keeping the ISS running as long as possible. "We think that cooperation in the ISS project should continue," he said. However, it's still not clear what Russia's involvement will be, if any, in the Deep Space Gateway.
According to SpaceNews, NASA Acting Administrator Robert Lightfoot noted that the idea for this lunar space station was also very much still a concept. He said they had discussed with some partners about building the station – Europe and Japan, for example – but nothing was set in stone yet. “We’ve got a list of criteria that we’re putting together to say what would we do post-2024,” he said.
Meanwhile Naoki Okumura – president of the Japanese space agency, JAXA – later said they were “making a serious deliberation as to what JAXA can do if we join the Deep Space Gateway.”
To complicate matters even further, a report on the Russian news website TASS said that Russia was considering sending its own cosmonauts to China’s planned new space station in the coming years, with construction expected to be completed in 2022. The US has infamously refused to cooperate with China at all in space, so who knows if Russian cooperation with China will be a problem.
The Deep Space Gateway seems like a decent idea, and it at least gives a purpose for NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket, which would be used to launch its parts. The ISS, meanwhile, has been a shining example of international cooperation. Hopefully one – but preferably both – of these projects will continue.