Russia may invoke the spirit of ‘Mir’ by launching its own orbital station after 2024, as a replacement for the ISS. The current setup had been expected to operate until 2030, but there are signs that it may not be possible.
The proposed new Russian replacement is set to consist of between three and seven modules, with a crew of up to four people.
Moscow’s plans were revealed by Vladimir Solovyov, the first deputy designer general for RSC Energia, the company which operates the Russian segment of the ISS. In his opinion, several elements on the international station are already failing, and it will just get worse from 2025.
“Until 2025, Russia has obligations to participate in the ISS program,” Solovyov explained to the Russian Academy of Sciences. “There are already a number of elements that have been seriously damaged and are out of service. Many of them are not replaceable. After 2025, we predict an avalanche-like failure of numerous elements onboard the ISS.”
The ISS regularly has problems. Last month, the Russian Zvezda module suffered a crack. At the time, former cosmonaut Ivan Vagner explained that it may have been caused by wear and tear.
“Twenty years is actually an absolute record for all space stations,” he explained.
As things stand, Russia has obligations to participate in the ISS program until 2025, and afterwards, the costs may be too prohibitive.
Writing on Twitter, the head of space agency Roscosmos, Dmitry Rogozin, said that it was too early to decommission the international project but that some modules might have to be replaced.
“I think it’s too early to write off the station,” Rogozin wrote. “I see the great potential of the ISS for the development of space tourism and the participation of private space companies.”
Later, in a press release, Roscosmos clarified that Solovyov’s comments were of “an informational nature” and did not contain any “proposals for termination of participation in the ISS.”
The Russian-built proposed replacement for the ISS is currently in development and is planned for deployment after 2024. The Russian Orbital Station will be able to run autonomously, and will be operated by a crew of two to four people. In May, Rogozin explained that an ISS replacement was in the works, but it was not yet clear whether it would be visited or inhabited, national or international.