Video Caption: Russia will look to wind down its cooperation on the International Space Station (ISS) while stepping up cooperation with China on the creation of a lunar station in the coming years, the head of Russia’s space agency said in an interview with the China Global Television Network (CGTN) on Friday.
Editor’s Note: In brief, Russia will honor commitments to ISS through the current end date of 2024. Rogozin thinks negotiations to extend station operations — NASA wants a 2030 end date — would be difficult with current tensions over the Russian invasion of Ukraine. He said Russia plans to launch its own space station in 2027-28, on which it might work with China.
Rogozin said whether Russia has crewed flights from 2025 until the new station is launched is uncertain. He does not say so directly, but it appears that Russia has four options. It could extend its participation in ISS for another three years if a new agreement can be worked out with station partners the United States, Europe, Japan and Canada.
Russian Soyuz spacecraft could launch cosmonauts to China’s Tiangong space station, whose initial assembly is scheduled to be completed later this year. There has been press reports about such flights, but no agreement has been announced.
Russia could also continue to fly paying passengers aboard Soyuz. Previous passengers have flown to ISS, but it’s possible the spacecraft could be modified for short orbital flights lasting several days. Roscosmos might also fly paying passengers to the Chinese space station.
A fourth option is a break in flights until the new Russian station is launched. A gap would be less attractive in terms of national pride, but it might free up funding needed to build the new space station.
Russia is working on a new crew spacecraft to replace Soyuz that would be capable of lunar missions. Russia and China have an agreement to work together to establish a crewed base at the south pole of the moon.
Seat Swaps to Continue
In a series of tweets, Rogozin said U.S. astronauts will continue to fly to the International Space Station (ISS) on Soyuz spacecraft and that Russian cosmonauts will fly on an American vehicle.
Rogozin said Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin signed a decree allowing Roscosmos to negotiate an agreement with NASA to exchange seats on each other’s vehicles. The practice is intended to ensure a balance of U.S. and Russian astronauts and cosmonauts on the space station during crew changes.
Rogozin said that cosmonaut Anna Kikina, who is currently undergoing training with NASA, is Russia’s candidate to fly on a SpaceX Crew Dragon. He added that NASA has not yet nominated an astronaut to fly on Soyuz.
No Russian cosmonaut has flown on an American spacecraft since before the retirement of the space shuttle in 2011.