Russia Could Agree to ISS Extension

The International Space Station, backdropped by the blackness of space and the thin line of Earth's atmosphere. (Credit: NASA)
The International Space Station, backdropped by the blackness of space and the thin line of Earth’s atmosphere. (Credit: NASA)

Izvestia reports that Russia could continue to use the International Space Station after 2020 despite earlier threats would pull out of the program because of frayed relations over the Ukraine crisis.

“The issue of Russia’s participation at the ISS after 2020 remains open, but there is a 90-percent chance that the state’s leadership will agree to participate in the project further,” the paper wrote citing a source at Russia’s Federal Space Agency Roscosmos.

Russian space enterprises continue to make new modules for the space station according to the schedule, the paper said.

Meanwhile, Interfax reports that the Russian space agency Roscosmos plans continued expansion of the space station.

A proposed federal space plan for 2016-2025 envisions an expansion of the existing Russian segment of ISS in 2017, Interfax reported, citing a copy of the document. That year, Russia would launch its long-delayed Multipurpose Laboratory Module, as well as a new hub module and docking module — allowing five ships to dock with the station.

The overall cost of Russia’s ISS extension will be almost 4 billion rubles ($110 million).

The Multipurpose Laboratory Module was to have been launched by now. However, Khrunichev suffered delays in finishing it, and Energia then sent the module back to Khrunichev after it discovered multiple problems with it.

Initially, Russia had been enthusiastic about NASA’s proposal to extend operations of the station from 2020 until at least 2024. However, relations between the two nations have frayed due to Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula and support for a rebellion in the eastern part of that nation.

Following the U.S. decision to impose sanctions over Russia’s actions in Ukraine, Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said his nation would not extend ISS operations beyond 2020. Rogozin, who oversees Russia’s space and defense sectors, also accelerated cooperation with China’s space program.

Since that time, Russia’s attitude toward the proposed ISS extension have softened, with indications that four more years of operations are possible.

In the past, Russian space officials have talked about taking their elements of ISS and using them as a basis for a new orbiting facility. It is not clear how far that idea has advanced, or whether officials are seriously considering it.


  • therealdmt

    Finally some good news on a possible extension!

    Although we’ll evntually have to move on from the expensive-to-operate and in some ways limited ISS, it is serving a number of vital functions right now and over the coming years – and in some ways is just really getting started.

    Of course, what’s going on in Ukraine is a big deal, with, in a worst case scenario, well…

    Anyway, hopefully things can resolve themselves there and the ISS can continue to 2024 or 2028 and prove out Bigelow modules, commercial crew, a real understanding of year-plus stays in zero-g (and improved mitigation strategies) and advance elements of closed loop life support. And lots more. There’s ai lot still to be gotten out of the most expensive facility man has ever built (yikes!) – it’d be a crime to just ditch it just after it has finally been [essentially] completed.

  • newpapyrus

    Extending the ISS beyond 2020 is extremely wasteful for both the US and Russia and its partners.

    Its time to move on towards the next generation of larger and cheaper private commercial space stations.

    There also needs to be a commitment to deploy a simple rotating artificial gravity space station at EML4 or EML5 by the mid 2020s.


  • Hug Doug

    “There also needs to be a commitment to deploy a simple rotating artificial gravity space station at EML4 or EML5 by the mid 2020s.”


  • mzungu

    To study gravity in microgravity, of course. 😀

  • Vladislaw

    It would be both cheaper, and faster to test it in LEO and it would be cheaper to resupply to both crew and cargo in LEO. Better to test in LEO before you push it outward. Better to have a reliable, Gas n’ Go, space based, reusable vehicle and commercial fuel depot before that also.

  • Chad Overton

    I have to agree with that sentement. Although I would chage the time frame from mid 2020s to ASAP. The reason is we need to do a lot of studys on the effects of artificial gravity on humans. We need to know if it will be good enough for long term space travel. What would really be nice is a rotating space station with research nodea at different gravities i.e. one at moon standard and one at Mars standard.

    It seems to me one of the show stoppers for long term space travel is human health and a rotating station could go a long way in helping us understand that.

  • newpapyrus

    Because the long term goal of human space travel is to find out if humans can live permanently beyond our planet of evolutionary origin. And this could greatly enhance the long term survival of our species.

    The mid 2020’s goal would enable us to evaluate such rotating habitats as possible crew vehicles for interplanetary journeys to Mars orbit in the 2030s.


  • newpapyrus

    But you also want to test such rotating structures for potential use as interplanetary habitats for voyages to Mars and for Mars orbiting space stations. That means you’d have to mass shield them with water in a nearby environment where they’d be fully exposed to interplanetary levels of cosmic radiation– including heavy nuclei.

    Also the best place to launch humans for Mars journeys would be at the Earth-Moon Lagrange points rather than from LEO where you’d have to incur a substantial delta-v penalty.

    The SLS could place fuel depots and water at the Earth-Moon Lagrange points in the early 2020s.


  • Michael J. Listner

    It’s not like they got anything else going on. This brings up an interesting question as to space cooperation that Russia and China have been making noise about. If Russia commits to an extension of the ISS what does this mean for their “cooperation” (meaning funding) with China and its planned space station? For that matter if Russia extends it makes sense that the other partners will as well leaving China to foot the bill for its space station.

  • Vladislaw

    You are putting the cart before the horse. Test articles close to home, send tested operational vehicles.

  • Vladislaw

    Russia still remembers the “mongel yoke” I believe they will stay with the ISS, isn’t uncle sugar, a bit more generous? smiles

  • Hug Doug

    “Because the long term goal of human space travel is to find out if humans can live permanently beyond our planet of evolutionary origin.”

    are we not already doing that on the ISS?

    why does the rotating space station have to be at LM 4 or 5?

    do we need to have rotating habitats for a journey to Mars?

  • Vladislaw

    I have no problem with testing a centrifuge. Like this one attached to the ISS. We can easily find out if sleeping for 8 hours a night with spin makes a change over the course of one crew stay of 6 months.

  • Hug Doug

    Unfortunately I don’t think that will ever be mounted on the ISS – I thought it was a brilliant idea when I first saw it – but we can fervently hope that one gets put on a Bigelow space station, though.

  • ‮‮‮

    Its time to move on towards the next generation of larger and cheaper private commercial space stations.

    What do the businesses need space stations for, especially multiple large manned stations? How can you achieve positive ROI with them, even with near-future tech? Okay, there’s Bigelow and their hotels, what else?

  • Jeff Smith

    While the idea IS cool. We already know that sleeping in 1G is like being in 0G (all those bedrest studies show muscles atrophy similar to living in 0G… the data doesn’t look good for what we’d like, at least the bones might not decalcify). If we are going to try anything it would be a lab or exercise room. If you are USING your muscles in 1G, that seems to be the trick to maintain muscles… being at rest doesn’t seem to do much.
    I’m for a simple capsule/counterweight experiment with rats or something to see what 1G is like for animals and then compare that to a 0G control.

  • windbourne

    As much as I hate the SLS, I am not convinced that it will be canceled
    Spacex has taken a long time for both FH and dragon rider. As such, SLS will pretty much be ready in 2 years. While it is far too expensiv to run normally, it might be the backup to FH and then BFR.
    ISS vs skylab should have shown how badly we need multiple launch vehicles of similar size.

  • Jeff Smith

    Don’t ask the question “what valuable thing do *I* think NASA should be doing”, because NASA will NEVER do what YOU want them to do. That’s not how the system works, and it’s designed that way intentionally. Instead ask “what is something useful that NASA *CAN* do?” NASA CANNOT do outside-the-box things anymore, they CANNOT do anything that is not allowed by their congressional masters, they CANNOT do anything that upsets the status quo. Given those limitations, what can NASA do? Either they can do ISS, or they can junk ISS. It wouldn’t be replaced by anything, especially with anything you or I want. They can either do ISS or nothing, that is the only choice. If you want them to do nothing (and still spend the same amount) then junking ISS is the right decision. If you want them to do something, your only option right now is ISS.

  • newpapyrus

    There’s more than 30,000 people in the world worth more than $100 million. So that’s more than 30,000 people who could afford a $25 million to $35 million flight to orbit.

    Assuming a private space station cost between $200 million to $1 billion to build and deploy, a private space station could charge each individual about $2 or $3 million for a two week stay. So if only 1% of that number traveled to a private space station every year, that would mean $600 million to $900 million in annual revenue. Assuming each station has an average lifetime of about 15 years, that should be enough revenue to support at least four of the most expensive private space stations and a lot more of the smaller less expensive space stations.


  • newpapyrus

    We already learned for Skylab and from the ISS that a microgravity environment is deleterious to human health. In theory, artificial gravity should be able to mitigate or eliminate the deleterious effects of microgravity on the human body.

    Since journeys to and from Mars are going to take at least six to 9 months, some sort of artificial gravity is going to be required to keep astronauts healthy enough to conduct missions on the Martian surface.

    We need a station at EML4 or EML 5 so that we can also test the habitat’s ability to protect astronauts from cosmic radiation and major solar events beyond the Earth’s magnetosphere.


  • Hug Doug

    “In theory, artificial gravity should be able to mitigate or eliminate the deleterious effects of microgravity on the human body.”

    why can’t we find that out in LEO?

    “Since journeys to and from Mars are going to take at least six to 9 months”

    then shouldn’t we be focusing on reducing the travel time with faster spacecraft? that reduces the associated risks with the journey to Mars – less time in 0 g, less exposure to cosmic radiation or solar events.

    and again, why EML 4 or 5?? you could put it in high Earth orbit, or even Lunar orbit. both are much closer and you get the same environment.

  • Hug Doug

    such a centrifuge would be more useful for growing small plants or lab animals at Mars or Lunar level gravity. i think that’s where the research value in such a (fairly small) spinning ring ought to be greatest.

  • Hug Doug

    how are you going to put 300 paying customers on a private space station every year?

    and don’t forget, very few of those 30,000 people actually have that money in cash. most of those people with $100 million have it locked up in properties or investments. of the people with the cash money to spend, very few will be interested in traveling to space.

    you need to keep your market in mind here, and you need a viable business plan.

  • Vladislaw

    Right now on the Bigelow Aerospace website they offering a price of 26 million for transportation to the station and ride home, plus room aboard for 2 months. Bigelow has already stated 3 million a month after that. If a 2nd or 3rd tier country wanted to establish a full up space program based in LEO it would cost 25 million to rent 1/3 of a BA 330 for two months. Multiply by 6 for a full year lease 150 milion per year. To launch an astronaut and the first two months, 25 million plus an additional 12 million for four additional months, 37 milion to keep and astronaut in LEO for six months, times two for 2 astronauts each doing six months. 74 million plus the 150 millon for station lease 224 milion a year. With 2 BA330’s for lease 1.34 billion gross per year.

  • Vladislaw

    SLS is not expected to launch a human until 2021. with the first launch already slipping into the mid 2018 timeframe the crewed flight will slip to the right also.

    FH may launch next year and there is already three flights on the manifest. That is one flight more than is manifested SLS.

    NASA just did contract for the cores.1.4 billion .. EACH. just the cores add in the SRB’s, the upperstage, the standing army for launch, the orion capsule .. almost 3.5 billon each and all disposable …

    FH may be flying 6-8 years befoe the SLS’s first manned flight and commercial crew will have been flying 4-6 years…
    SLS/MPCV will be canceled.

  • Tonya

    There have also been proposals for even smaller designs that could fit within an existing module. It’s entirely unknown how much exposure to gravity is needed to counter the harmful effects of zero-g.

    The cycle centrifuge was a research project which could allow for future astronauts to exercise in gravity in an extremely minimal way.

  • Vladislaw

    There would be some benefits, one constant complaint is your head floats when you sleep at the very least there would be a slight pressure on chest making your heart work a little harder and your head wouldn’t bob around. I have never thought it was a miracle cure. More like an extension, allowing maybe and extra month or two on flight durations not allowing extreme long term stays. If Congress wasn’t so screwed up it would be,in relative terms, pretty cheap to find out.

  • Kapitalist

    It is already very well established that a year plus in microgravity is not an option for human space travel. Finding out even more ways in which it hurts astronauts isn’t helpful any more. Stop torturing them. Artificial (centrifugal) gravity is the only way forward. The next space station should be built as a prototype of a spacecraft to Mars and simulate those conditions with artificial gravity, recycling and simulated time delay in communications.

    At least the ISS has the 6 month format right spot on. And the pessimists’ fear of some kind of psycho-mutiny on space missions has been ridiculed.

  • Kapitalist

    People will go to Mars within a few decades. There is no stopping them any more. They will all give you their reasons for it. They are going whatever anyone else thinks about it. Basically just because Mars is there! It is an irresistible place for some to go to. It’s human instinct. There is a market potential.

    So it makes sense to start studying how to do it. Microgravity has already been excluded as an option. No one here has mentioned the microbiological problems. That’s really ugly and complex beyond repair.

  • therealdmt

    I kind of agree, but definitely not completely.

    I agree that we need to investigate artificial gravity (and that it’s high time we get on with it), but it’s not clear that that will be the answer. There are likely to be significant issues with balance, especially with smaller structures. Anyway, it does absolutely need investigating.

    Also, it’s simply not very well established that a year plus in microgravity is not an option for human space travel. That of course is the very reason NASA and the Russians are about to move to some year long crew rotations. Further, we already know people can survive for a year plus in space because the Russians have done it – 3 times (plus 2 other stays of >300 days).

    Prolonged exposure to microgravity causes various issues (as we’re learning), but so do lots of things people do, like say, drinking soda (insulin spikes, weight gain, change in body composition, obesity, increased risk of diabetes, etc. – things can sound pretty grisly when you spell them out in intricate detail like that). People likely can’t stay in zero g for years on end, but it in no way has been proven that less than 1 year is an inviolable limit.

  • therealdmt

    from a news article and then Wikipedia:
    “1995: Cosmonaut Valeri Polyakov returns to Earth from the longest-ever stay in space by a human. He spent just over 437 days in the Mir space station. Thanks to a strenuous workout regimen, he returned to Earth looking “big and strong” and “like he could wrestle a bear,” in the words of NASA astronaut Norman Thagard. Polyakov, a medical doctor, said that he volunteered for the extra-long mission to prove that the human body could survive microgravity long enough to make a trip to Mars…“When his capsule landed in Kazakhstan he walked from it to a nearby chair, a tremendous achievement,” Philip Baker wrote…Reportedly, his first statement back on Earth was to tell a fellow cosmonaut, “We can fly to Mars.””

    From Wikipedia:
    “Polyakov underwent medical assessments before, during, and after the flight. He also underwent two follow-up examinations six months after returning to Earth. When researchers compared the results of these medical exams, it was revealed that although there were no impairments of cognitive functions, Polyakov experienced a clear decline in mood as well as a feeling of increased workload during the first few weeks of spaceflight and return to Earth.[6][7] However, Polyakov’s mood stabilized to pre-flight levels between the second and fourteenth month of his mission. It was also revealed that Polyakov did not suffer from any prolonged performance impairments after returning to Earth. In light of these findings, researchers concluded that a stable mood and overall function could be maintained during extended duration spaceflights, such as manned missions to Mars.[6]”
    Valeri Polkyakov is alive and well today at the ripe old age of 72.

  • Kapitalist

    Surviving a year or a half in microgravity is no problem. But those cosmonauts weren’t exactly in ship shape to do some field geology when they landed. Sending “survivors” to Mars is not good enough. We need to send healthy explorers. The return trip might be done in microgravity, but I don’t see why.

    Centrifugal simulation of gravity is trivial. You just spin the habitat module with a counter weight in a cable. Already Newton knew all about it 300 years ago. I think that the reason it has never been tested in space is because every engineer in NASA goes:

    “Gaaah, test what? That’s like testing if 1+1=2 in space. We already know that. Here’s something interesting to test instead…”

    It has sometimes been argued that the spinning stuff is so difficult. Here’s a video of a recent NASA test of despinning a spacecraft (the LDSD). See 40 seconds into the clip. It Doesn’t look so difficult, does it?

  • Kapitalist

    Exercising several hours a day is not only a bit of a psychological problem in the long term. I suppose that it also consumes more water and food, and thus adds to the mass budget. And produces more sweat which floats around in microgravity, with deteriorated health and discomfort as a result. And I would think that the immune system is weakened after a long hard workout, in addition to the microgravity in itself weakening it. Every attempt to mend one of the problems of microgravity seems to cause a few new problems. Better just get rid of microgravity.

  • therealdmt

    I think they should start tests on certifuges too. Like you, I find it very frustrating that this hasn’t been pursued more. I disagree though that microgravity for a 7 month trip to Mars is a show stopper. I think we’ll see increasing issues brought up with the year long stays, and yet, I think life will very much go on for those astronauts, just as it has for the cosmonauts that preceded them.

    It’s the wee hours of the night for me, so I’m not gonna look it up, but ‘The Space Show’ had a doctor on somewhat recently who discussed some of the human factors that will come up with using rotation for artificial gravity – it may be possible to adapt to it, but we don’t know because the situation can’t be perfectly simulated on the ground. Basically though, there’s major issues involved with just turning your head. Also walking, depending on which direction you’re walking in relation to the spin (I forget whether it’s with/against the spin or at right angles – anyway, pretty crazy stuff).

  • therealdmt

    Like with microgravity though, I don’t know that those will be show stoppers for artificial gravity – the body has an amazing ability to adapt.

    But it’s not a given. Basically, it has to (and should be) investigated. I think we could/should be starting with animal and plant experiments right now. And make plans (once commercial crew gets going) to spin a Dragon and a counterweight (for example, an upper stage) on a tether and see how the astronauts initially react and take it from there.

    Also, the effects I mentioned above decrease with radius – we need to experiment with different radiuses (radii?!!) and see what’ style minimum that seems acceptable.

  • windbourne

    OUCH. It is more expensive than I thought it would be.
    However, we still need a large launcher of similar size to FH and then BFR.

    I do have to say that if it is cost 4B to launch an SLS, then yeah, it is NOT likely to happen, esp. if ULA or Rocketdyne will step forward and announce their own BFR.

    To support the Moon and Mars, we REALLY need multiple SHLVs.

  • windbourne

    Oh, I like that. Cool.

  • Vladislaw

    Also, you have to remember, a commercial company has to factor in the development costs and ammoratize those costs. NASA never has to factor in the development costs. Constellation/Ares I/Ares V/Orion/SLS/MPCV will end up costing in the ballpark of 80 – 90 billion to develop. That means after ten flights, you would have to add another 8 billion to the costs per launch. If the SLS only launches once every other year.. you would be looking at 15 billion per launch after ten launches. To put 4 people into LEO or a Lunar fly by in an all disposable system.
    The SLS is nothing but a way to keep the ex shuttle workforce and a couple of NASA centers to keep their lights on.
    All this pork spending is actually costing our Nation actual hardware that exists now, Atlas V, Delta IV, Falcon 9, Antares, etc from launching actual space hardware.

  • Kapitalist

    It’s just a matter of how long the cable is. It has all been very well explained, precisely by guests on the Space Show! If you are rotating with a cable of a few hundred meters, you will hardly notice the difference from Earth gravity. ISS astronauts dream of having that luxury, so that they could sleep properly, and dream about it…

    Maybe Mars explorers will move around on permobils? They need space suits anyway. But that is not exactly the popular Mars exploration vision of today. And since it is so very simple to rotate a thing to create artificial gravity and simply eliminate all the microgravity problems, I don’t understand why it should not be the preferred option.

  • Vladislaw

    The pork premium that Congress has imposed on human spaceflight hardware has pushed NASA out of the design/develop/build/operate aspect of human spaceflight. We need the government to use commercial space transportation, just like the government does with all other forms of transportation. Flying through space should be no different then flying through airspace. If NASA wants lunar researchers on the moon they should pay a per seat price from commercial providers.

  • Vultur

    Yeah. And it’s only 8 months to Mars, and astronauts there could wear weights to build up their strength again.

    I don’t think long microgravity trips are at all unreasonable.

  • windbourne

    Bigelow is NOT about building hotels. All by itself, that is a money losing idea, which is why so many like to claim that is what BA is up to. Private hotel will be less than 5% of BAs customers.
    Businesses will be SOME of their customers. BA is hoping that at least 10-20% will be businesses.
    But what BA is counting on, is that many smaller nations that can not afford a full blown space program, which cost BILLIONS, will be willing to spend say 50-100 million /year for a space program in which their ppl go into a cheap Leo station. Within 5 years, they will then join the wagons going to the moon. In 10 years, they will join the cruisers going to mars.

    History shows that musk and BA are right on the money.