Russia threat to quit International Space Station
March 29, 2022 - Russia’s space chief has threatened that Russia could leave the International Space Station programme over sanctions. The Zvezda Service Module boosts the ISS higher when the orbit decays.
According to Dmitry Rogozin, Roscosmos head, Western sanctions on Russia since President Vladimir Putin annexed Crimea in 2014 and invaded Ukraine in 2022 could disrupt the operation of Russian spacecraft servicing the ISS.
As a result, thrusters on Russia’s Zvezda Service Module and visiting spacecraft -- which help correct the ISS’ orbit -- “could be affected,” causing the 500-tonne structure to “fall into the sea or onto land,” Rogozin wrote on Telegram.
“The Russian segment ensures that the station’s orbit is corrected, on average 11 times a year, including to avoid space debris”, said Rogozin, a close Putin ally and former deputy prime minister.
The ISS orbits Earth at an altitude ranging from 370 to 460 kilometres (230 to 286 miles) and at a speed of 28,000km/h (17,500mph). Due to atmospheric drag, the ISS constantly slows and must be boosted periodically to maintain its altitude. If the ISS falls to 350km, its orbit will degrade by 90 metres a day.
Thrusters located on Russia’s Zvezda Service Module and Soyuz and Progress docked spacecraft are used to perform these manoeuvres. Zvezda has thirty-two attitude control engines, and Progress resupply vehicles have 24 thrusters.
Rogozin, who regularly expresses his support for the Russian army in Ukraine on social media, has regularly made these threats.
“If the sanctions… remain and are not lifted in the near future, the issue of Russia’s withdrawal from the ISS will be the responsibility of the American partners,” Rogozin said during a Russian parliament hearing last June.
However, Rogozin’s threats could be hollow -- Roscosmos earns an average of $56.3 million per seat aboard Soyuz to the International Space Station. Roscosmos’ budget this year is just $2.9 billion, compared to NASA’s $25 billion.
- The Future of the International Space Station Looks Dire (Bloomberg)
- Russia warns sanctions could cause International Space Station to crash (AFP)
- Russia threatens to leave International Space Station program over U.S. sanctions: reports (Space.com)
- Atmospheric Drag Alters Satellite Orbits (Eos science news magazine)