It’s the end of the International Space Station (ISS) as we know it. The new chief of Roscosmos, Yuri Borisov, has confirmed what has been alluded to for years. Russia will no longer be part of the ISS after 2024.
"Of course, we will fulfill all our obligations to our partners, but the decision to leave this station after 2024 has been made," Borisov told Russian President Vladimir Putin in comments released by the Kremlin.
"I think that by this time we will start putting together a Russian orbital station."
However, NASA says it has not received any formal notification yet. "We haven't received any official word from the partner as to the news today," director of the ISS for NASA, Robyn Gatens, said during a conference, AFP reports.
Asked if she wanted the US-Space relationship to end, Gaten replied: "No, absolutely not."
Early this year the space station mission was extended to 2030, while Russia was already considering not staying past 2025. Russia’s brutal invasion of Ukraine and the subsequent sanctions imposed on the country by many of the nations involved in the ISS have led to tensions between the Russian space agency and the other international partners in the collaboration, hastening the decision.
Despite the announcement from Russia, Roscosmos and NASA will continue to launch astronauts from Russia and cosmonauts from the US and have at least one astronaut and one cosmonaut on board the ISS until after 2024.
The ISS may have been extended until 2030 but it's expected to be dropped into the ocean in 2031. The whole structure is aging and without sizeable refurbishment, a long-term future is unsustainable. Another issue to be sorted out sooner rather than later is how the station will be kept in the right orbit. This is usually handled by receiving a boost from the Russian crafts but without them, there will have to be a different setup.
Last month, Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus spacecraft became the first commercial spacecraft to successfully boost the station (after a first failed test went slightly off-plan). This is a positive step but plenty more tests will need tot be carried out to guarantee this approach is a viable way to keep the ISS where it should be for the rest of the decade.
This article has been amended to include NASA's comments.