The head of Russia's space agency announced overnight on Tuesday that the country planned to leave the International Space Station, which may put an end to years of cooperation on the orbiting research complex.
According to a conversation between him and President Vladimir Putin that was published on the Kremlin website, Yuri Borisov, the director general of Roscosmos, as the Russian space agency is known, declared that Russia would depart the facility after 2024. Until it departs, the nation will carry out its station operating commitments, he said.
The invasion of Ukraine by Russia hampered international space efforts, jeopardizing many missions and straining years of cooperation among spacefaring countries.
For instance, earlier this month NASA issued a rare condemnation of Russia after cosmonauts on the facility were pictured hoisting flags related to regions of Ukraine that Russia had invaded in a Roscosmos social media post. In February, Russia announced that it would halt operations at the European launch complex in South America.
The nation's decision to abandon the station may hinder NASA's preferred use of the station for the remaining ten years before its retirement. The US space agency announced last year that a plan to keep operating the station, where scientists perform experiments, through 2030 had received White House approval.
Roscosmos questioned earlier this year if it could continue utilizing the station in the wake of Russia's invasion of Ukraine and the sanctions that the US and other nations subsequently put on Russia. The station's ability to function rests in part on Roscosmos-managed equipment, which also gives it periodic boosts to keep it in orbit.
No more comment was provided by a Roscosmos spokesman, who instead referred to the interaction between Mr. Borisov and Mr. Putin that was published on the Kremlin website.
According to Bill Nelson, administrator of NASA, no partners have informed the agency of their status at the site.
The agency is developing "future capabilities to assure our major presence in low-Earth orbit" while still remaining dedicated to the safe operation of the station through 2030, he said.
Despite the concerns caused by the conflict in Ukraine, NASA officials have previously stated that operations aboard the station have continued as normal.
Through an international collaboration, NASA, Roscosmos, the European Space Agency, and other space organizations manage the space station. In order to prevent a situation where the current station is deorbited but the proposed replacement stations are not functioning, the US space agency has been pushing to put numerous, privately operated space stations in orbit.
It selected three companies, among them Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin, to build these facilities last year. The Houston-based space business Axiom Space is also developing its own station.