Tuesday, July 26, 2022

Dmitry? Is That You?

It seems like just a few weeks ago that the former head of the Russian space agency Roscosmos, Dmitry Rogozin suggested that Russia was going to no longer support the International Space Station.  To be fair, it was last April.   So pardon me if it seemed like same old, same old when I read on Ars Technica today that Russia says it's abandoning its ISS partnership when the current contract expires in 2024.  Except it's not Rogozin who said this, it's his new replacement Yuri Borisov.  

Russia has supplied a number of modules to the ISS, and its segments host solar panels that contribute to the station's power budget. More critically, it has provided the thrust that allows the ISS to maintain its orbit, which would otherwise gradually decay. At present, it's unclear what will happen to Russia's hardware when the country exits the partnership.

Still, the availability of Dragon crewed vehicles has made Russia's participation less essential than it was just a few years ago. And by fulfilling its commitments to the end of 2024, Russia will provide NASA with a significant amount of time to develop alternate plans that could allow the ISS to remain occupied through 2030.

As we've covered here, even before the April discussion, the US doesn't need Russia to raise the station's orbit as it decays over time.  We have three options that are capable of maintaining the ISS in its desired orbit: Northrup-Grumman's Cygnus cargo drone as well as SpaceX's, Cargo and Crew Dragons.  If I understand correctly, we can add in Boeing's Starliner as well.  In March, when Rogozin first Tweeted the threat "... who will save the ISS from an unguided de-orbit...?" we saw this exchange. 

This led to Rogozin deriding the Falcon 9 as a flying broomstick, which lives on as a perpetual joke as comments to F 9 launches and Tweets about them. 

According to The New York Times, Borisov told Russian President Vladimir Putin that the 2024 date gives his country time as well. “I think that by this time, we will begin to form the Russian orbital station,” he said.

I don't think so.  Roscosmos is currently shutdown with no income and some workers sent home/laid off.  All launches from the western countries have been held, with some companies going to the European Space Agency and at least OneWeb going to SpaceX.  Amazon announced a contract for their Kuiper internet service that's basically, "we'll buy a ride from anyone except SpaceX:" 38 Vulcans, 18 Arianespace 64s and 12 Blue Origin New Glenns.  It's an interesting side note that not one of those three listed boosters actually exists yet.  To be fair, they also have nine ULA Atlas V and two RS1 launches from startup ABL booked as well.  At least the Atlas V exists, although they are at end of life and when ULA's supply of the engines on hand for the remaining Atlas V missions are used up, that's the end of the line for the Atlas, in service in one form or other since 1957.  

I suppose I should emphasize that this doesn't take effect until some date in 2024, and in the intervening years, the astronaut swaps we talked about recently are still going forward as outlined.  Expect NASA astronaut, Frank Rubio, to fly the Soyuz MS-22 mission and cosmonaut Anna Kikina to fly on the SpaceX Crew-5 mission. 


  1. The Russians are pulling out because their economy is collapsing, rapidly, like it did after the Soviet Union collapsed. The war in Ukraine is contributing greatly to the collapse, but the indicators were there way before the first soldier crossed the border. Goes back 5-10 years at least.

    One of the best indications of the fall of Mother Russia has been watching them struggle with their one lone aircraft carrier, which when leaving port leaves with a squadron of ocean-going tugs.

    That right there is Mother Russia in a nutshell. Old, broken, shaky, needs help moving...

    1. I'd add the word overrated in there somewhere. They seem to be willing to throw an unlimited amount of flesh in front of the oncoming rounds with the idea being to outlast the other guys.

    2. Yeah, overrated in space, too. They're basically still flying a Gemini capsule. And have since we were flying Geminis. There's been no real advancement in their lift rockets. It's like they're still using Atlas 1s or Delta IIs. All their new space stuff is just like all their new everything else stuff, vaporware and a lot of promises.

      Hmm... Bezos.... Russians... vaporware and promises... Bezos is actually a Russian oligarch? Hmmm.....

  2. Took me a second, but then I got the title placed....

  3. I'm surprised Russian laptops don't have two-stroke engines.

  4. Not worried in the slightest about Russia, scared spitless about China.

  5. Rogozov,. Borisov, whoever. They are just mouthpieces for the people who really run things. And in Russia that is currently Putin and his closest associates.