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Orbiter plans put Russia's ISS involvement in doubt

By REN QI in Moscow | China Daily | Updated: 2020-11-28 09:58

The International Space Station (ISS) crew members Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner of the Russian space agency Roscosmos are seen inside the Soyuz MS-16 space capsule after landing in a remote area outside Zhezkazgan, Kazakhstan Oct 22, 2020. [Photo/Agencies]

Russia will consider revising the terms of its participation in the International Space Station, and begin deploying its own service orbital station after 2024, a senior Russian official said on Thursday.

Russian space agency Roscosmos said it will remain part of the ISS until 2024 and that it is open to extending its participation beyond then.

"We have to reconsider the terms of further participation in the ISS program and focus on the implementation of orbital station programs," Vladimir Solovyov, deputy head of the Energia Rocket and Space Corporation, was quoted as saying by the Scientific Russia internet portal.

The state-run company oversees the Russian segment of the ISS, which was launched in 1998 by the Russian and US state space agencies.

Solovyov, who was speaking at a meeting of the Russian Academy of Sciences focusing on space, did not say whether Russia should quit the ISS before 2024.

On operational matters, the ISS crew reported to Russia's Flight Control Center on Oct 15 that the cosmonauts had found a possible air leak spot in the intersection compartment of the Zvezda module with the help of a tea bag.

In the account by the cosmonauts, the air was possibly leaking through a fracture. It has now been sealed under a temporary fix from what was available in the space station, the crew reported, providing an insight into some of the problems they have to contend with.

Solovyov said a lot of the equipment on the ISS was starting to age and that it needed to be replaced. He said there would be an "avalanche" of broken equipment there after 2025.

Russia may deploy its own service orbital station after 2024, Solovyov said of the facility that would be manned by up to four cosmonauts.

At the meeting, Solovyov presented details on the project to establish the Russian Orbital Service Station, or ROSS, which is under development by Energia.

He said the new station will comprise three to seven modules, and could be operated by a crew of two to four cosmonauts. The station will also be able to operate autonomously.

"The cosmonauts will work on the station in shifts, in order to reduce the crew's radiation exposure and operating costs," Solovyov said.

According to Solovyov, the ROSS will serve a number of purposes, including remote probing, research, experiments, communications, navigation, man-made disaster detection, geological surveys, participation in educational projects, forestry monitoring and space tourism.

The achievement of Russia's main goals in space depends on the orbital space station programs, among other things, the official said. He added that the new station would confer advantages such as open architecture and an unlimited life-span, thanks to replaceable modules.

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