Russia says it will withdraw from the International Space Station (ISS) after 2024 to focus on building its own outpost in space, the newly appointed chief of the state space agency, Roscosmos, said Tuesday.
Roscosmos chief Yury Borisov who was appointed head of Roscosmos this month, said during a meeting with President Vladimir Putin that “the decision to leave this station after 2024 has been made”.
“You know that we work in the International Space Station in the context of international cooperation. We will undoubtedly fulfill all our obligations to our partners, but the decision to leave the station after 2024 has been made,” Borisov told Putin in the Kremlin-issued readout.
He added: “I think by then we will start forming a Russian orbiting station,” which the space program calls its top “priority.”
The decision to withdraw has been taken mainly because of high tensions between Moscow and the West over the fighting in Ukraine and several rounds of unprecedented sanctions against Russia. The ISS is one of the last existing US-Kremlin partnerships built as a key symbol of the post-Cold War cooperation between the two countries.
Borisov’s statement echoed previous statements by the previous head of Roscosmos, Dmitry Rogozin, about Moscow’s intention to leave the space station after 2024, when current international arrangements for the operation end. It wants to focus its efforts on building its own space station by 2024.
Despite the split, NASA and Roscosmos had recently signed an agreement to swap seats for NASA astronauts and Russian cosmonauts aboard each other’s respective launch vehicles — the Russian Soyuz and SpaceX’s Crew Dragon — starting this fall.
Under the agreement, the space station will always have at least one American and one Russian on board the ISS to ensure that both sides of the orbiting outpost run smoothly.
While the ISS was originally supposed to retire sometime around 2024, NASA changed the official retirement date to 2030.
“It’s an unfortunate development given the critical scientific work that has been done on the ISS,” said Ned Price, a spokesman for the State Department. “The United States and Russia have collaborated on space exploration for decades…”
NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said the agency is “committed to the safe operation of the International Space Station through 2030 and is coordinating with our partners. NASA has not been notified of any decisions made by any of the partners, although we continue to build.” future capabilities to ensure our large presence in low Earth orbit.”
Robyn Gatens, NASA’s director of the ISS at a conference on Tuesday, said she still hasn’t heard anything official from her Russian colleagues about pulling out of the partnership. However, she suggested that “the Russians, like us, are thinking ahead about what lies ahead. Since we plan to transition to commercially operated space stations in low Earth orbit after 2030, they have a similar plan. And so they are also thinking about that transition.”