Russia’s withdrawal from the International Space Station could mean the early death of the orbiting lab – and another Russian disconnect with the West.

Russia intends to withdraw. From the International Space Station after 2024, according to one Declaration of Yuri BorisovThe new head of the Russian space agency Roscosmos met with Vladimir Putin on July 26, 2022. Borisov also said that future efforts would focus on a new Russian space station.

Current contracts on the ISS keep it operating until 2024, and the station needs Russian modules to remain in orbit. The US and its partners have been. Trying to expand. Life of the station till 2030. Russia’s announcement, while not a treaty violation or an immediate threat to the station’s day-to-day operations, marks the end of months of political tension involving the ISS.

During its 23-year life, the station has been a prime example of how Russia and the United States can work together despite their former adversaries. This cooperation has been particularly important as the countries’ relations have deteriorated in recent years. While it remains unclear whether the Russians will follow through on the announcement, it adds significant tension to the most successful international cooperation operation in space ever. Like Scholars who study space policy.I think the question now is whether political relations have deteriorated so much that it is impossible to work together in space.

<img class="caas-img caas-lazy has-preview" alt="Zvezda ماڈیول، اس تصویر میں بالکل نیچے بائیں طرف، ISS کے چھ روسی حصوں میں سے ایک ہے اور اس میں اسٹیشن کو مدار میں رکھنے کے لیے استعمال ہونے والے انجن رکھے گئے ہیں۔ NASA” data-src=”https://s.yimg.com/ny/api/res/1.2/rfXiV2hULE_KbkbVV9DgHQ–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTcwNTtoPTc2Mw–/https://s.yimg.com/uu/api/res/1.2/ y5iEAllVcejMwx57JyWj5A–~B/aD0xNTU4O3c9MTQ0MDthcHBpZD15dGFjaHlvbg–/https://media.zenfs.com/en/the_conversation_us_articles_815/1b662ca13ddbd864445ee5d3cbb5b7b7″/><img alt="Zvezda ماڈیول، اس تصویر میں بالکل نیچے بائیں طرف، ISS کے چھ روسی حصوں میں سے ایک ہے اور اس میں اسٹیشن کو مدار میں رکھنے کے لیے استعمال ہونے والے انجن رکھے گئے ہیں۔ NASA” src=”https://s.yimg.com/ny/api/res/1.2/rfXiV2hULE_KbkbVV9DgHQ–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTcwNTtoPTc2Mw–/https://s.yimg.com/uu/api/res/1.2/y5iEAllVcejMwx57JyWj5A- -~B/aD0xNTU4O3c9MTQ0MDthcHBpZD15dGFjaHlvbg–/https://media.zenfs.com/en/the_conversation_us_articles_815/1b662ca13ddbd864445ee5d3cbb5b7b7″ class=”caas-img”/>
The Zvezda module, far left in this photo, is one of the six Russian sections of the ISS and houses the engines used to keep the station in orbit. NASA

What will this return look like?

Russia runs six. Among the 17 modules of the ISS – including Zvezda, which houses the main engine system. This is essential for the engine. The station’s ability to stay in orbit And also how Get out of the way of dangerous space debris.. Under the ISS contractsRussia retains full control and legal authority over its modules.

It is currently unclear how the Russian withdrawal will take place. Russia’s declaration only speaks of “after 2024”. Additionally, Russia has not said whether it will allow ISS partners to take control of the Russian modules and continue to operate the station or if this will require the modules to be shut down entirely.

Given that the Russian modules are essential to station operations, this is uncertain. Will the station work? without them. It is also unclear whether it will be possible to separate the Russian modules from the rest of the ISS, as the entire station was designed to be interconnected.

Depending on how and when Russia decides to exit the station, partner nations will have to make tough choices about whether to scrap the ISS altogether or find creative ways to keep it in the sky. Solutions must be found.

Continuation of political tensions

The withdrawal announcement is the latest in a series of incidents involving the ISS since Russia invaded Ukraine in February. Russia’s decision to leave should have no significant impact on the day-to-day operations of the ISS. Like many minor incidents that have taken place in the past months, this is a political act.

<img class="caas-img caas-lazy has-preview" alt="روس کی خلائی ایجنسی کی جانب سے لوہانسک عوامی جمہوریہ کا جھنڈا تھامے تین خلابازوں کی یہ تصویر پوسٹ کرنے کے بعد ناسا نے روس پر یوکرائن مخالف پروپیگنڈا کی تصویر آئی ایس ایس پر اسٹیج کرنے کا الزام لگایا۔ Roscosmos via Telegram” data-src=”https://s.yimg.com/ny/api/res/1.2/maqYQyB0SYlhRAONxXnPFg–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTcwNTtoPTQ3MA–/https://s.yimg.com/uu/api/res/1.2/ DxsWUOGeYYyrpaZl2TesPA–~B/aD05NTk7dz0xNDQwO2FwcGlkPXl0YWNoeW9u/https://media.zenfs.com/en/the_conversation_us_articles_815/36cdaec0595e6dadf90800e679c5c4b7″/><img alt="روس کی خلائی ایجنسی کی جانب سے لوہانسک عوامی جمہوریہ کا جھنڈا تھامے تین خلابازوں کی یہ تصویر پوسٹ کرنے کے بعد ناسا نے روس پر یوکرائن مخالف پروپیگنڈا کی تصویر آئی ایس ایس پر اسٹیج کرنے کا الزام لگایا۔ Roscosmos via Telegram” src=”https://s.yimg.com/ny/api/res/1.2/maqYQyB0SYlhRAONxXnPFg–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTcwNTtoPTQ3MA–/https://s.yimg.com/uu/api/res/1.2/DxsWUOGeYYyrpaZl2TesPA- -~B/aD05NTk7dz0xNDQwO2FwcGlkPXl0YWNoeW9u/https://media.zenfs.com/en/the_conversation_us_articles_815/36cdaec0595e6dadf90800e679c5c4b7″ class=”caas-img”/>
NASA accused Russia of staging an anti-Ukraine propaganda image on the ISS after the Russian space agency posted this photo of three astronauts holding the flag of the Luhansk People’s Republic. Roscosmos via Telegram

The first incident occurred in March, when three Russian cosmonauts emerged from their capsule. In yellow and blue flight suits that resembled the Ukrainian flag. Despite the similarities, Russian officials have never talked about the agreement. Then, on July 7, 2022, NASA openly criticized Russia. Apparently to present a propaganda image. In the photo, three Russian cosmonauts pose with flags attached to areas of eastern Ukraine occupied by Russian forces.

The operation of the station itself has not been interrupted. Astronauts on the station conduct dozens of experiments every day. Taking a shared space walk. But one important effect of the rising tension was this. End Russian participation in joint experiments With European countries aboard the ISS.

While little information is available on how Russia’s withdrawal will affect the use of its modules, in the short term, it appears that the greatest impact will be on scientific experiments.

Why now?

It is not clear why Russia has made this announcement now.

Tensions around the ISS have been high since the start of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. Dmitry Rogozin, head of Roscosmos at the time, emphasized that Russia leaving the ISS is a possibility.. However, Rogozin was recently fired, and announced by NASA and Roscosmos. Exchange seats for ISS. Under the contract, one American astronaut will fly to the station on a future Soyuz mission while one astronaut will launch on an upcoming SpaceX Dragon launch. The two moves together suggested the two sides could still find ways to work together in the space. But it seems that these impressions were misleading.

The announcement comes as the United States considers a future beyond the ISS. NASA is currently in the first phase. Development of a commercial space station As an alternative to Orbital Lab. While the development of this new space station will be difficult to accelerate, it signals that the ISS is nearing the end of its productive and impressive life, no matter what Russia does.

This article has been republished. Conversation, a nonprofit news site dedicated to sharing the views of education experts. It was written: Wendy Whitman Cobb, Air University.

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Wendy Whitman Cobb is affiliated with the US Air Force School of Advanced Air and Space Studies. His views are his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Department of Defense or any of its constituents.