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Russia says it’s quitting the International Space Station after 2024

The International Space Station. (NASA/Released)
July 26, 2022

The Russian government is planning to pull out of the International Space Station (ISS) after 2024 amid high diplomatic tensions between Russia and other ISS members, including the U.S. and several western European countries. Russia has not yet notified NASA of its decision, however.

On Tuesday, the Russian state-run TASS news agency reported that Russian President Vladimir Putin reached a decision with Yuri Borisov, the director general of the Russian space agency Roscosmos, to pull out of ISS after 2024.

Borisov told Putin, “We are working within the framework of international cooperation at the International Space Station. Of course, we will fulfill all our obligations to our partners, but the decision and leaving this station after 2024 has been made.”

The Russian government appears to be putting off its withdrawal from ISS until 2024 to bridge the gap in time before the start of its own separate space station Russian Orbital Service Station (ROSS). According to Borisov, by the time Russia leaves ISS, the new ROSS project will begin.

Borisov said the Russian space program will shift its resources and focus to ROSS. He said a new Russian scientific and energy space module that was previously slated to attach to ISS will instead serve as the first module for the ROSS.

Russian officials have repeatedly hinted at ending the partnership with ISS.

In March of this year, then-Roscosmos Director General Dmitry Rogozin shared a video appearing to depict Russian cosmonauts detaching their modules from ISS and leaving behind U.S. astronaut Mark Vande Hei. Rogozin shared the video just weeks before Vande Hei was scheduled to return back to Earth on a Russian space reentry vehicle and though Vande Hei did ultimately return to Earth at the end of March, the Russian video did raise concerns that he would be abandoned.

In May, Rogozin said the decision had already been made to pull Russia out of the ISS partnership.

Russian officials have increasingly described plans to leave ISS amid a wave of U.S. and international sanctions against Russia, brought in response to Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine.

Despite Borisov’s latest comment and other past comments by Russian officials about leaving ISS, a NASA official said on Tuesday that Roscosmos has provided no formal notice of Russia’s plans to leave the international space station.

Robyn Gatens, the director of NASA’s ISS activities, told Reuters that his Russian counterparts have not yet communicated plans to leave ISS, as is required by the station’s intergovernmental agreement.

“Nothing official yet,” Gatens said at an ISS conference in Washington. “We literally just saw that as well. We haven’t gotten anything official.”