Russia has formally agreed to remain aboard the International Space Station (ISS) until 2028, NASA has announced. Yuri Borisov, the Director General of Roscosmos, previously said that the country was pulling out of the ISS after 2024 so it can focus on building its own space station. “After 2024” is pretty vague, though, and even Roscosmos official Sergei Krikalev said it could mean 2025, 2028 or 2030. Now, we have a more solid idea of until when Russia intends to remain a partner. To note, the United States, Japan, Canada and the participating countries of the ESA (European Space Agency) have previously agreed to keep the ISS running until 2030.
After the United States and other countries imposed sanctions on Russia following the invasion of Ukraine, former Roscosmos director Dmitry Rogozin spoke up and threatened to stop working with his agency’s western counterparts. “I believe that the restoration of normal relations between the partners at the International Space Station and other projects is possible only with full and unconditional removal of illegal sanctions,” Rogozin said at the time.
While Roscosmos has now agreed to continue cooperating with its fellow ISS partners, the increasing tension between Russia and the US even before the invasion of Ukraine began prompted NASA to prepare for the possibility of the former leaving the space station. NASA and the White House reportedly drew plans to pull astronauts out of the station if Russia leaves abruptly, as well as to keep the ISS running without the Russian thrusters keeping the flying lab in orbit.
Private space companies had reportedly been called in to help out, and a previous report said Boeing already formed a team of engineers to figure out how to control the ISS without Russia’s thrusters. It’s unclear if the remaining ISS partners will use any of those contingencies after 2028 and if a private space corp will step in to keep the space station running. It’s worth noting, however, that NASA and other space agencies are already preparing to leave Low Earth Orbit to explore the moon.