The International Space Station, which is the joint effort of several space agencies from all over the world, has recently been facing several issues regarding its operation beyond 2020. Russia, however, has seemed to ease the tension somewhat by agreeing to extend their support of the ISS until 2024.
First launched in 1998, the International Space Station is a collaboration between the US’s NASA, Russia’s Roscosmos, Japan’s JAXA, Canada’s CSA, and several European countries’ ESA. The project was originally given the end date of 2020, but it seems the US wants to continue the space station’s work beyond that.
Russia, last year, initially only agreed to fund the ISS until the expected end date. This decision to end the space collaboration between the US in 2020 seemed to have been cemented by the tensions between the two countries over the Crimea and Ukraine conflicts, which caused several protests in both nations, and several seemingly harsh decisions between its key leaders.
During that time, some of the announcements made included the US declaring that it would terminate all space missions with Russia with the exception of the ISS, and Russia declaring that it would not be selling any more of its rockets to the American launch company, the United Launch Alliance. Russia even pointed out that since the decommissioning of the US Space Shuttle Program, only the Russian Soyuz U is able to reach the space station. At the peak of this tension, in April of last year, a Russian official even suggested that the US launch their spacecraft with trampolines.
However, in an official statement released on February 24, the Roscosmos pledged its support for the ISS for four more years beyond the expected end of the mission. So far, only Russia has confirmed that it will do so. Other partnering countries, including Japan and Canada have not yet mentioned their intentions to continue funding.
The Roscosmos has also confirmed its plan is to build its own national space station after 2024. At that time, Russian modules of the ISS will be disconnected from the main body to be used as parts for the Russian station. The creation of this space station will serve as a base for the cosmonauts who will be part of Russia’s future moon missions, anticipated to begin by 203o.
Though this most recent decision is an improvement based on last year’s situation between the US and Russia, several experts from astrological societies express their disappointment with this decision to only fund the ISS until 2024. Initially, the creation of the ISS was a moment that showed international collaboration. However, Russia’s future plans seem to signify a step backward from the unity showed by the collaborative ISS effort.