Russian space officials told their US counterparts that Moscow expects to remain on the International Space Station (ISS) at least until its own orbital outpost is built in 2028, NASA’s chief of space operations told Reuters.
The assurances from Russia on Tuesday came after the newly appointed head of his space agency, Roscosmos, surprised NASA earlier in the day by announcing that Moscow plans to end more than two decades of cooperation with the space station “after 2024.”
“We’re not getting any indication at any level of work that anything has changed,” Kathy Lueders, NASA’s chief of space operations, told Reuters on Wednesday, adding that the US space agency’s relations with Roscosmos remained “business as usual.”
Each ISS partner must declare its withdrawal from the international agreement one year in advance.
Russia’s space program has a long and storied history. Like the Soviet Union, it launched its first satellite, Sputnik, in 1957; launched the first human into space, Yuri Gagarin, in 1961; launched the first woman in space, Valentina Tereshkova, in 1963; and both conducted the first spacewalk and built the first space station. Their Soyuz rockets, which take their cosmonauts to the ISS, are workhorses designed from the end of the Cold War era.
However, since the fall of the Soviet Union, Roscosmos has faced many challenges, both financial and political. Recently it was accused of corruption.
Over the years, then-head of Roscosmos, Dmitry Rogozin, has made bizarre threats and suggestions to NASA. When the war in Ukraine started, he threatened to leave American astronauts aboard the ISS. complete with a video — got into a heated Twitter exchange with former NASA astronaut Scott Kelly, telling NASA it would have to use broomsticks to get to the station.
The Russian government-controlled RIA Novosti @rianru posted a video on Telegram made by @roscosmos where cosmonauts say goodbye to Mark Vande Hei on #ISSdeparture, and then the Russian segment detaches from the rest of the ISS. @Rogozin clearly threatens the ISS program. #NASA #Ukraine pic.twitter.com/fj2coK1xR1
Russia has also focused more on the military use of space, conducting an anti-satellite test last November that produced more than 1,500 pieces of traceable debris. The act was widely condemned by the space community and other countries.
Russians continue to work and live aboard the ISS, and in September cosmonaut Anna Kikina will fly aboard a SpaceX rocket as a mission specialist en route to the station.
NASA has plans to continue using the ISS at least until 2030.