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.