The equipment of the International Space Station is seriously aging, but the United States has decided to postpone the decommissioning until 2030. However, Russia suddenly announced a few days ago that it will withdraw after 2024 and start building its own space station. The United States expressed regret and was surprised.
In fact, in the context of the Russian-Ukrainian conflict, the United States should have expected this day from the moment when sanctions were imposed on the Russian aerospace industry. The future space race will be even more intense.
Roscosmos President Borisov said that Russia will fulfill all its obligations, but has decided to withdraw from the space station after 2024. By then, the main priority of the Russian space program will be the formation of its own Orbital Service Station (ROSS).
Roscosmos has disclosed a sketch of the orbital station, which will be fully operated by Russia, consisting of three to seven modules, as well as a spacecraft maintenance platform.
The new orbiting station could be used as a lunar base, possibly housing a lunar spacecraft and monitoring the entire Earth’s surface, including the North Pole. In addition, a module that can accommodate four tourists may be installed in the station, enabling commercial space travel.
Putin said the plans and decisions were “good”.
Borisov was only appointed in mid-July to replace Rogozin. Having two former deputy prime ministers sit in the space agency one after another, including Borisov with a military background, is enough to illustrate the position of the space industry in Putin’s mind.
Borisov’s predecessor, Rogozin, was a well-known hawk to the United States and a “thorn in the West”. Rogozin accused the United States of launching sanctions that prevented Russia from entering the international microelectronics market and lost commercial orders, grossly trampling on the principle that “space has nothing to do with politics”.
Rogozin has suggested that the US “use trampolines” or “distribute brooms” to send astronauts to the International Space Station. Because since the historic retirement of the U.S. space shuttle in 2011, all American astronauts must take a Russian spacecraft to travel to and from the International Space Station.
Rogozin once warned that Western sanctions will affect Russia’s control and correction of the orbit of the International Space Station, which may eventually lead to an “uncontrolled deorbit and fall” of the 500-ton space station.
Therefore, the US media once questioned whether Russia would refuse to send American astronauts back to Earth because of sanctions.
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) earlier, under pressure from Congress, bought a sky-high seat on a Russian manned spacecraft for American astronauts and paid for it in rubles. Rogozin personally announced the news of the “slap in the face” of the American.
On March 30, Roscosmos safely returned an American astronaut and two Russian astronauts, helping 55-year-old NASA astronaut Mark van der Hey successfully set the record for the longest single spaceflight in the United States.
Now Russia’s announcement of “solo flight” is undoubtedly a shock to NASA.
The International Space Station, which started operation in 1998, is an example of a rare, long-term and deep cooperation between Russia and the United States and their allies. It stemmed from a diplomatic initiative to improve U.S.-Russian relations after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the U.S.-Soviet Cold War space race.
Although this project is very old, the United States still wants to last until 2030 and does not want to “separate” from Russia too early. Just before New Year’s Day in 2022, NASA promised to continue research with Russia on the space station in the next 10 years.
The day after the Russian army entered Ukraine, NASA quickly stated that the sanctions had nothing to do with the International Space Station and would continue to work with Russia to ensure the safe operation of the space station.
Therefore, the United States was caught off guard by Russia’s decision to withdraw in two years. Robin Gattens, director of NASA’s International Space Station, said that Russia had not communicated information as required by the agreement between the two governments, and the United States “has not received any official statement from Russia.” When asked if she wanted to end the U.S.-Russian space partnership, she responded: “No, absolutely not.”
The White House expressed “surprise” at Russia’s public news, saying it would seek other options to mitigate the potential impact.
One of the most talked about effects is that without the Russian spacecraft, how will the astronauts of the United States and its allies go to the sky?
NASA is now more reliant on private companies, and has allocated more than $400 million to three U.S. aerospace industry companies to symbolically fund the private development and operation of commercial space stations, hoping to dominate the commercial economy in low-Earth orbit.
Companies receiving grants include billionaire Bezos’ Blue Origin, Space Hardware and Services (Nanoracks), and Northrop Grumman Corp.
As for Musk’s SpaceX, it has successfully used its self-developed reusable manned “Dragon” spacecraft four times to transport multinational astronauts to and from the space station, reducing the United States’ dependence on Russia’s “Soyuz” spacecraft. It is believed that in the future, American astronauts will “go to the sky” on SpaceX’s spacecraft.
On the other hand, Russia and the United States have always coexisted “cooperation and competition” in the aerospace field. The relationship between the two sides has been ups and downs. Even at the height of the Cold War, the US and the Soviet Union did not cut off cooperation in the space field.
And just in July of this year, the two sides just signed a crew exchange agreement, allowing the astronauts of the two countries to share each other’s spacecraft to and from the International Space Station in the future.
The relationship has deteriorated, but the cooperation has not been cut off, and the bottom line is still there. This is the unique and exciting part of the game of great powers.
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