Russia Now Wants to Build Its Own Space Station Before Leaving the ISS

The Russian space agency has threatened to pull out of the ISS in retaliation to western-imposed sanctions.

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The International Space Station is pictured from the SpaceX Crew Dragon Endeavour.
A view of the ISS from the SpaceX Crew Dragon Endeavor.
Photo: NASA (AP)

Roscosmos just revealed a model of its own space station to rival the International Space Station (ISS) in a move that outlines the Russian space agency’s plans following its debated departure from the orbiting station.

For months, Russia has threatened to pull out of the ISS in a series of vague statements. Most recently, Roscosmos’ newly appointed head Yury Borisov said Russia plans on leaving the ISS after 2024, and begin constructing its own orbital outpost. “Of course, we will fulfill all our obligations to our partners, but the decision to leave this station after 2024 has been made,” Borisov said during a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin. “I think that by this time we will begin to assemble the Russian orbital station.”

On Monday, Roscosmos displayed a physical model of its own space station at a military-industrial exhibition outside Moscow. The Russian Orbital Space Station, nicknamed ‘ROSS,’ would launch in two phases. The first phase would include four modules, while the second phase would add two more modules and a service platform, The Guardian reported. Russia’s state media has previously suggested that the first phase would launch as soon as 2025, and no later than 2030, while the second phase would launch by 2030-2035.

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The ambitious timeline suggests that Russia may be staying on board the ISS at least until after 2024. Although NASA seems to believe that Roscosmos won’t leave the ISS until 2028, the space agency still had a backup plan should the Russian space agency suddenly decide to pull out of their longstanding partnership in Earth orbit. It’s also not clear how Roscosmos plans to pull off the construction of its space station while under heavy international sanctions imposed on Russia following the invasion of Ukraine that are sure to affect its budget for space endeavors.

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NASA and Roscosmos have had a longstanding partnership aboard the ISS for more than two decades. Since the space station launched in 1998, there have been at least one NASA astronaut, and one Roscosmos cosmonaut on board at the same time. But the Russian space agency has been acting up recently in retaliation to the sanctions imposed on Russia. The Russian space agency posted photos on its official Telegram channel in July of three cosmonauts holding up the flags of Russian-backed regions in Ukraine to show support of the ongoing invasion. Roscosmos former head Dmitry Rogozin also commanded the cosmonauts on board the ISS to discontinue their work on a European robotic arm, challenging the European Space Agency’s Director General Josef Aschbacher to “fly to space” and do it himself.

But with Rogozin gone, Roscosmos’ approach has been less aggressive, although the space agency is still not promising to stay on board the ISS until the space station plunges to its death in 2030. And with a model of ROSS now on display, Roscosmos seems to be longing for its independence from its international counterparts in space.

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