Can Nasa persuade Russia to back International Space Station plans?

Biden wants to extend the operation of the ISS to 2030 before replacing it – will Russia approve?

The deadline for the decommissioning of the International Space Station (ISS) is worryingly close, and there is a danger that the commercial replacements the US was hoping for will not be ready to launch in time.

With that in mind, on New Year’s Eve, Nasa announced that the Biden-Harris administration wanted to extend the operation of the ISS by six years to 2030.

Nasa must liaise with its international partners, Europe, Japan, Canada and Russia, to agree their participation. The ESA’s director general, Josef Aschbacher, has already tweeted his support.

Keeping Russia as a full partner may prove more challenging. The Russian news agency Tass reported in April 2021 that a research and power module originally intended for the ISS would now become the first part of a national space station.

On 2 December, Nasa awarded grants to three private companies to develop commercial space station designs. But they will not be ready for launch by 2024, so an ISS extension to 2030 will give those companies more time to build and launch.

Also in the running is an earlier proposal by Axiom Space, which is building a commercial module for ISS that could be detached to become a private space station. If successful, when the ISS is decommissioned Nasa will be able to seamlessly continue its space station research programme by simply switching their crews to the commercial stations.

Contributor

Stuart Clark

The GuardianTramp

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