In a major upset, Roscosmos Chief Yury Borisov announced in a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin that Russia will formally withdraw from the International Space Station after 2024, putting the future of the space lab in jeopardy.
With the Russian invasion of Ukraine dragging into its sixth month, relations between Russia and the West have reached a low not seen since the Cold War.
The results of this have already affected CERN, Mars missions with ESA, and now the ISS.
According to the Russian news agency TASS, Borisov said that Russia will fulfill all of its obligations, but will not continue its commitment to the ISS after 2024, confirming a position stated by the former Roscosmos head Dmitry Rogozin in April.
Until its withdrawal from the program, Russia says that it will continue to send crews to the ISS, including three swap-over crews aboard the SpaceX Crew Dragon.
The Russians have plans to develop their own Russian Orbital Service Station, but what will happen to the Russian modules docked with the ISS is still uncertain.
They could be left in place and deactivated, control could be transferred to the other ISS partners, or they could even be detached for the new Russian station or disposed of in the Earth’s atmosphere.
Currently, the space lab relies on the Russian Progress cargo ships to provide occasional thruster burns to boost it into a higher altitude to fight orbital decay.
Such a radical rearrangement will also affect things like crew rotations, keeping the station continually occupied, maintenance, and science projects.