Fears have been raised after a widely circulated comment by Russia’s space agency chief, Dimitry Rogozin, that the tensions following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine could have ramifications for the International Space Station (ISS), a permanent laboratory in space where the US, Russia, and a few other countries collaborate.
Rogozin threatened to respond to US sanctions by letting the International Space Station (ISS) fall from space in a series of tweets. He predicted that the ISS, a 420-tonne spacecraft and the world’s largest man-made structure in space, would crash on the United States, Europe, or India and China. Its orbital flight path generally avoids the majority of Russian land.
Currently, the International Space Station is the sole operational space laboratory, circling the earth at a height of around 400 kilometres above the ground. It is run by more than 15 different countries. Canada, Japan, and other members of the European Space Agency are also ISS partners, in addition to Russia and the United States.
The ISS, which is about the size of a football field, travels at a speed of about 28,000 kilometres per hour. It takes around one and a half hours to complete one orbit around the Earth. As a result, it makes around 16 journeys around the planet in a single day. Since its inception in 1998, the International Space Station has been continually inhabited. A crew of six astronauts is on board at any given time. Seven astronauts are currently stationed on the International Space Station (ISS), four from the United States, two from Russia (who prefer to be called cosmonauts), and one from Germany. According to NASA, 240 people from 19 countries have visited the ISS so far. A range of zero-gravity experiments, space exploratory studies, and technological development are carried out at the facility.
The International Space Station (ISS) is not the first space station to be built and operated. Several smaller space stations have been used in the past, the most well-known of which were the Russian Mir space station and the American Skylab, both of which operated in the 1980s.
The International Space Station (ISS) has been in operation since 1998 and is planned to last until at least 2028. Russia, on the other hand, has hinted that it may leave the alliance sooner than 2024. ISS replacements are already in the works. Several countries, including India and China, have expressed an interest in constructing their own space stations. At least two prototypes have previously been tested in China.
The threat from Russia’s space agency leader stems from the fact that Russia supplies the ISS’s propulsion system, which keeps it in a pre-determined orbit. The ISS is divided into two sections, one of which is overseen by the US and the other by Russia. While the United States is in charge of electricity and the technologies that keep the spacecraft alive, Russia is in charge of maintaining it in orbit.
The International Space Station is not totally in zero-gravity. It does come into contact with some gravity. It also loses some energy as it travels around the planet. The ISS would collapse if left to its own devices. The Russians send thrusters to the ISS on a regular basis to attach themselves to it and provide the necessary momentum to keep it going.
Rogozin’s statement meant that if Russia withdraws its backing, the US and other countries would be unable to keep the ISS from collapsing. Elon Musk, the billionaire owner of SpaceX, the largest private space business that has carried both astronauts and cargo to the ISS, responded by claiming that his company might step in and provide the facility’s propulsion if the Russians quit it.
Space cooperation between the United States and Russia
The International Space Station (ISS) is the most visible aspect of a broad space collaboration between the United States and Russia. The ISS relationship has so far proven immune to the geopolitical difficulties that exist between the two countries on a regular basis. For example, the previous Ukrainian crisis in 2014, when Russia annexed Crimea, had little effect on the ISS collaboration.
Rogozin’s threat was not considered as anything Russia was seriously considering doing this time, and NASA downplayed it. However, the current conflict has the potential to have a negative impact on space cooperation in other ways.
There are already reports that Russia may opt to exclude the United States from a planned trip to Venus that the two countries were collaborating on. The Venera-D mission to Venus is scheduled to launch in 2029, and it was originally intended to be a joint US-Russia venture.