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Russia signals space station withdrawal; NASA Says It’s Not Official Yet – SABC News

Russia’s new space chief announced Tuesday his country plans to withdraw from the International Space Station after 2024, but senior NASA officials said Moscow has not officially announced any intention to end its two-decade-old orbital partnership with the United States.

While heightened tensions between Moscow and Washington over the Russian invasion of Ukraine have raised doubts about future US-Russian space cooperation for months, the announcement by Yuri Borissov, the newly appointed director general of Russia’s space agency Roscosmos, came as a surprise.

The two former Cold War adversaries signed a crew-swap agreement less than two weeks ago, allowing US astronauts and Russian cosmonauts to fly each other’s spacecraft to and from the International Space Station (ISS) in the future share.

NASA Administrator Bill Nelson issued a statement reaffirming the US commitment to keep the ISS operational through 2030, adding the space agency is “coordinating with our partners.”

“NASA has not been made aware of any decisions by any of our partners, although we continue to build future capabilities to ensure our large presence in low Earth orbit,” he said.

Launched in 1998, the ISS has been continuously manned since November 2000 under a US-Russia-led partnership that also includes Canada, Japan and 11 European countries.

“Of course we will fulfill all our obligations to our partners, but the decision to withdraw from the station after 2024 has been made,” Borisov told Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday.

Robyn Gatens, NASA ISS director, said her Russian colleagues had not communicated such an intention, as required by the intergovernmental agreement on the orbiting research platform.

“Nothing official yet,” Gatens said in an interview at an ISS conference in Washington. “We didn’t get anything official.”

White House spokeswoman Karine Jean-Peters also said Moscow “has not officially notified the United States of its intention to withdraw from the ISS.”

“We are evaluating options to mitigate the potential impact on the ISS beyond 2024 if Russia withdraws,” she added in a briefing for reporters.

TENSIONED SPATIAL RELATIONS

The space station arose in part from a foreign policy initiative to improve US-Russian relations after the collapse of the Soviet Union and Cold War hostilities that fueled the original US-Soviet space race.

The ISS arrangement, which has faced numerous strains over the years, was one of the last links in civilian cooperation when Russia’s February 24 invasion of Ukraine pushed Washington-Moscow relations to a new post-Cold War low.

NASA and Roscosmos had held talks to extend Russia’s participation in the ISS until 2030. The White House this year approved NASA’s plans to continue operating the ISS until then.

NASA officials had previously said bilateral cooperation aboard the space station remained intact.

Borisov’s comments on Tuesday followed a similar pattern to that of his predecessor, Dmitry Rogozin, who occasionally signaled intentions to withdraw from the ISS during his tenure – contrary to official talks between NASA and Roscosmos.

Asked for clarification on Russia’s space station plans, a Roscosmos spokeswoman referred Reuters to Borisov’s comments without saying whether they reflected the agency’s official position.

The US and Russian segments of the ISS, which span the size of a football field and orbit about 400 km above the Earth, were deliberately built to be intertwined and technically interdependent.

For example, while US gyroscopes are taking day-to-day control of the ISS’s orientation in space and US solar arrays are boosting power to the Russian module, the Russian unit is providing the propulsion used to keep the station in orbit.

“You can’t get an amicable divorce,” Garrett Reisman, a retired NASA astronaut and current professor of space engineering at the University of Southern California, said in an interview with Reuters. “We’re kind of stuck together”

Former Russian space chief Rogozin had previously said Russia could not agree to extending its ISS role beyond 2024 unless the United States lifts sanctions on two Russian companies blacklisted for suspected military links .

Putin removed Rogozin as space chief on July 15, replacing him with Borisov, a former deputy prime minister and deputy defense minister.

Russia signals space station withdrawal; NASA Says It’s Not Official Yet – SABC News

Source link Russia signals space station withdrawal; NASA Says It’s Not Official Yet – SABC News

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