Russia shows off a model of the orbital station it will launch after ditching the ISS
- Russia unveiled a new model of its upcoming space station.
- Strained relations between the U.S. and Russia have led the latter to announce it will ditch the International Space Station (ISS).
- Though it will remain operational for years, both countries are planning for life after the ISS.
The Russian space agency, Roscosmos, revealed a physical model showing what its upcoming Russian space station will look like.
Even before Russia's invasion of Ukraine, relations between Roscosmos and NASA have been strained. In April last year, Roscosmos announced that it hopes to launch its own orbital space station as early as 2025.
That news came shortly after it opted out of joining NASA's lunar gateway program, choosing instead to build its own lunar orbital station in a partnership with China.
More recently, Russia announced it will fulfill its contractual obligations up until 2024 before ditching the International Space Station (ISS) and going it alone. Russia's goal is to reduce its reliance on western countries after it faced heavy aerospace industry sanctions following its invasion of Ukraine.
Russia's new 'Ross' space station
Roscosmos unveiled its model of the space station, nicknamed "Ross" by Russian state media, on Monday, August 15, at a military exhibition outside of Moscow. Roscosmos head Yuris Borisov, who was appointed last month to replace Dmitry Rogozov, reiterated at the event that Russia will quit the ISS after 2024 and that it is working on its own space station.
The breakup of the ISS partnership signals the end of a decades-long international scientific collaboration that has been seen by many as a beacon of peace and hope. The ISS was launched in 1998 as part of a U.S.-Russia-led partnership that also involved Canada, Japan, and the European Space Agency (ESA).
NASA, which recently announced it aims to keep the ISS operational beyond 2024, says it has yet to receive official confirmation from Russia of its withdrawal. The U.S. space agency previously understood Moscow would continue to collaborate on the orbital station project until 2028.
Life after the International Space Station
Roscosmos has yet to give official dates for the launch of its new space station, though it said it will be launched in two phases. For the first phase, it will launch a four-module space station. Once that is operational, it will add two more modules and a service platform. The Russian space agency said the station will be able to accommodate up to four cosmonauts.
The new station will also reportedly give a much wider view of Earth than is currently seen from the Russian segment of the ISS. However, it is not designed to be constantly staffed. Instead, cosmonauts will stay for two extended periods throughout the year. Design work is still in progress for the Russian space station. According to Russian state media, the first stage could launch between 2025-26 and the second by 2030-35.
NASA hopes the ISS could remain in orbit until roughly 2030, after which it will perform a controlled reentry into Earth's atmosphere. The U.S. space agency is also planning for life after the ISS by funding private orbital station projects, including Jeff Bezos' Orbital Reef project, much in the same way it has partnered with SpaceX to launch astronauts to the ISS. The break-up has been coming for some time now, and both Russia and the U.S. are setting the foundation for a more fractured future of orbital space operations.