Could Russia’s threat to leave International Space Station launch another space race?
The station has been a collaborative project — and important symbol — between the U.S. and Russia for decades, but that may end soon
Russian officials threatened to pull out of the International Space Station project, Reuters reported on Monday.
The International Space Station launched in 1998 as a collaborative project for outer space research. The orbiting lab has two segments: one operated by Russia and one operated by the U.S., Canada, Japan and the European Space Agency, Reuters said.
- Roscosmos — the Russian space program — Director General Dmitry Rogozin said Russia would leave the project if U.S. sanctions were “not lifted in the near future,” reported CNBC.
- “If Russia pulls out, it would not be good,” NASA Chief Bill Nelson said per CNN.
Why did Russia threaten to leave the space station?
The sanctions Russia wants to be lifted were implemented in December from former U.S. President Donald Trump, reported CNBC. Trump designated Russia’s JSC Rocket and Space Center Progress and JSC Central Research Institute of Machine Building as having connections with the Russian military.
- U.S. companies cannot sell their products to companies under this designation without special licenses, said CNBC.
- The U.S. sanctions have prevented a specific type of microchip sets needed for satellite launching from being imported into Russia, reported Reuters.
“We have spacecraft that are nearly assembled but they lack one specific microchip set that we have no way of purchasing because of the sanctions,” Rogozin explained via Reuters.
“Either we work together, in which case the sanctions are lifted immediately, or we will not work together and we will deploy our own station,” Rogozin said per CNBC.
- Russia has planned ongoing repairs on space station and still schedules flights for Russian cosmonauts to and from it, according to CNN.
Why would this launch another space race?
The U.S. plans to continue the ISS program through 2030, says CNN. If it follows through on threats to leave, Russia could withdraw from the ISS program as soon as 2024.
- Russia has indicated they will pursue an independent space station, said CNN.
- Earlier this year, Russia and China signed a memorandum of understanding to cooperatively explore establishing a joint lunar base, CNN reports.
“If Russia starts just depending on China, then, I expect we would have a whole new race to the moon with China and Russia against the U.S.,” Nelson, chief NASA director, said to CNN.
“Maintaining a strong relationship with Russia in space exploration will be key to keeping space a neutral territory,” according to a CNN report.