After insinuating that it planned to leave the International Space Station partnership after 2024, Russia’s state space corporation Roscosmos has told NASA that it intends to remain in the program until at least 2028, according to a report in Reuters. Roscosmos plans to stay involved with the ISS until it gets a new Russian space station up and running, with 2028 as the target date.
Roscosmos caused turmoil yesterday when its newly appointed director, Yuri Borisov, told Russian President Vladimir Putin that a decision had been made to leave the ISS partnership after 2024. However, the statement was vague and did not specify when after 2024 Roscosmos planned to leave, only saying that Russia hoped to transition focus to a new space station it was developing called the Russian Orbital Service Station (ROSS). Additionally, one NASA official claimed that the agency hadn’t had “any official word” from Roscosmos, while NASA administrator Bill Nelson said in a statement the agency had “not been made aware of decisions from any of the partners” on the ISS.
However, it seems that Roscosmos officials had at least some communication with NASA on Tuesday, informing the US space agency that it planned to stay involved in the ISS until its ROSS station was up in 2028, according to Reuters. “We’re not getting any indication at any working level that anything’s changed,” Kathy Lueders, NASA’s associate administrator for space operations, told Reuters on Wednesday. NASA did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Verge.
NASA and Roscosmos are the two biggest partners on the International Space Station, and both entities are tasked with operating the vehicle and maintaining a continuous human presence on the ISS while in orbit. However, growing tensions between the United States and Russia over the latter’s invasion of Ukraine have prompted concern about the future of the ISS partnership. Borisov’s predecessor, Dmitry Rogozin, made plenty of threats about Roscosmos pulling out of the ISS agreement, while NASA has continuously assured the public that it is business as usual on the station.
Rogozin was known for making outlandish threats, though, and Borisov is a relatively new player at Roscosmos, so it was unclear how seriously his statement should be taken. But on Tuesday, Roscosmos published an interview with Vladimir Solovyov, the flight director of the Russian portion of the ISS, who gave more details on the plans for ROSS, according to a tweet thread of the story. He noted that ROSS will be built in two phases, with the first beginning in 2028, and that he believed it was necessary to continue operating the Russian portion of the ISS until that time so that there wouldn’t be a gap in crewed missions to orbit. Rogozin had also said there would need to be an overlap between the ISS and the new Russian space station.
So there’s no need to panic quite yet about the space station’s future. NASA still plans to operate the vehicle until 2030, and it appears that Roscosmos will be on board for most of that time.