Russia will reportedly ditch the International Space Station

The sanctions imposed after its invasion of Ukraine proved untenable.
Chris Young
ISS (left), Russian flag (right)1, 2

The General Director of Russia's Roscosmos space agency, Dmitry Rogozin, confirmed the country will leave the International Space Station, according to Bloomberg report.

Rogozin said Moscow's decision to leave the ISS is down to economic sanctions imposed on the country as a result of its invasion of Ukraine. The move marks the end of an unprecedented era of global collaboration and is the culmination of a breakup that has been brewing for a long time.

Both the U.S. and Russia have already made plans for life beyond the aging ISS, and Russia has previously been vocal about continuing space operations without U.S. collaborations.

Russia blames ISS breakaway on U.S. sanctions

On Saturday, April 30, two Russian state news agencies, Tass and RIA Novosti, reported that Rogozin said the decision had been made in an official capacity.

"The decision has been taken already, we're not obliged to talk about it publicly," he explained on state television. "I can say this only — in accordance with our obligations, we'll inform our partners about the end of our work on the ISS with a year's notice."

Shortly after the start of Russia's conflict in Ukraine, when the U.S. and other global powers levied aerospace sanctions against Russia, Rogozin famously stated that the U.S. could launch to space aboard "American broomsticks" as it could no longer rely on Russian Soyuz rocket launches for its space operations. The head of Roscosmos blasted the Western economic sanctions and also said the country would cease partnerships with NASA and the European Space Agency.

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"I believe that the restoration of normal relations between partners in the International Space Station and other joint projects is possible only with the complete and unconditional lifting of illegal sanctions," he tweeted.

Following suggestions in February that Russia leaving the ISS could cause the orbital station to deorbit, Elon Musk wrote that SpaceX could help to maintain the ISS operational.

The end of an era of unprecedented space collaboration

The announcement brings to an end collaboration on a bastion of global scientific cooperation and what many have constituted as a successful era of cooperation between Moscow and Washington. Since launching in 1998, the ISS has fostered teamwork between global scientists from Russia, the U.S., Canada, Japan, and the European Space Agency (ESA), making it the most ambitious scientific collaboration in history. The space station has enabled countless breakthroughs, including recent work with the Bose-Einstein Quantum state, or the "fifth state of matter."

Last year, we reported that Russia plans to launch its own space station by 2025, and that its space agency was already considering whether to cancel collaboration on the ISS beyond 2024, when its current agreement ended. Moscow had recently declined to collaborate with NASA on its lunar Gateway project, deciding instead to make its own lunar space station alongside China.

The U.S. recently announced it means to keep the ISS operational through 2030, though the space station's aging hardware means it will eventually be decommissioned and will make a controlled reentry over one of the Earth's oceans. Much like Russia, the U.S. is planning for life beyond the ISS, and it has contracts in place with Blue Origin, Lockheed Martin, and others to help them launch private space stations to orbit.

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