Goodbye, the ISS: Russia plans to withdraw from the International Space Station


On April, 18, 2021, Russia announced its plans on withdrawing from the International Space Station in 2025. According to Rossiya 1 TV channel, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Borisov stated that the ISS has outlived its lifespan, and Russia plans to contact its partners in outer space cooperation in advance to “honestly inform  <them> on withdrawing from the ISS in 2025”. According to his statement, the increasing frequency and amount of malfunctions can represent a threat to cosmonauts: “a situation connected with the deterioration of <station`s> structures and metals can lead to irreversible consequences and even to a catastrophe. It can`t be allowed to happen.” This issue becomes more and more essential these days since the station`s operating time has already exceeded 20 years: the first segment of station was launched in 1998, and in 2000 the ISS welcomed its first expedition crew. 

Previously the worth whileness of Russia`s participation in the ISS mission was discussed during the meeting with the President of Russia on issues of aerospace industry development. As REGNUM information agency reported, Dmitry Peskov, the Press Secretary for the President of Russia confirmed that one of the topics discussed at the meeting was about “that the ISS and its Russian segment can`t stay in operating condition forever, and the lifespan of their construction is decreasing as time goes by, so sooner or later the final decision has to be made. And the reasonableness of continuing of this work and detailed elaboration of this question really were emphasized during yesterday`s meeting.” However, Yuri Gidzenko, Deputy Chief of the spacecraft and launch vehicles’ flight operation center of RSC Energia (S. P. Korolev Rocket and Space Corporation Energia), in his interview to Rossiya-24 TV channel said that despite occurring malfunctions, the Russian segment of the ISS should be in stable operating condition up to 2028. This opinion is also supported by Dmitry Rogozin, Director General of Roscosmos (the Roscosmos State Corporation for Space Activities), who said that “the state corporation is monitoring the ISS conditions, and despite the fact that some segments already exceeded their operating time, it is still early for the ISS decommission.” As a result, it is too early to state whether Russia will withdraw from the ISS in the nearest future.

The Russian Space Station?

At the same time it is worth mentioning that many people became interested in information about Russia`s plans on launching  the National Space Station, which was also mentioned in the report of Rossiya 1 TV channel. Earlier, in November 2020, during the meeting of the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Council on Outer Space, Vladimir Soloviev, first Deputy Director of RSC Energia, in his report introduced a project of the Russian Orbital Service Station (ROSS). It was presented as an alternative to participation in the ISS program, since the possible financial spending on this program after 2025 may increase significantly and reach 10-15 billion rubles` mark, thus questioning the worth whileness of continuing participation. In April 2021, Dmitry Rogozin published a video on his Facebook page that “the first core module of the new Russian orbital service station is in the operating condition. RSC Energia has a task to ensure that in 2025 it will be ready for launching to the final orbit.” Despite the fact that the module on the video is marked as “the Model”, it still illustrates the successful development in Russia`s aerospace industry. Taking into account the experience from the previous years and, in particular, launching of Salyut and Mir space station, the creation of ROSS is just a matter of time.

The issue of launching National Space Station raises certain concerns. Nowadays, the international cooperation in the outer space is one of a few mechanisms which succeed in decreasing tensions in geopolitics, and the International Space Station serves as the best example of global cooperation for the good of world community. In this case, Russia`s decision on withdrawing from the ISS mission will not only set under the question the further cooperation in the Outer Space, but also influence the geopolitical situation on the Earth, which is quite unpredictable these days.

Anna Kolotova
Anna Kolotova
PhD in International Relations in Jilin University, China, postdoctoral fellow in Global Engagement Academy, Shandong University (Weihai), China. Contact: kolotov711[at]


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