Russia hustles to fill impending void left by the ISS
First module of new space station to be launched in 2027
Russian President Vladimir Putin has approved a project to build an Orbital Station following a meeting regarding the development of the country's space industry.
Moscow mouthpiece TASS reported the move, and lurking within the grandstanding about space station ambitions was an admission of how much Russia's human spaceflight program still depends on the International Space Station (ISS).
Roscosmos boss Yuri Borisov said the funds have been allocated and the green light given to start work on the project. This is convenient because the prospects for Russian human spaceflight will start to look bleak once the ISS hurtles back to Earth around 2030.
According to TASS, Borisov said that ensuring the continuity of Russia's program was a "pressing task" and he added that there was a genuine risk of a situation where "the ISS is no longer there, and the Russian station is not yet there."
Considering the lengthy delays associated with space programs, the timelines are ambitious. The first component – the scientific and energy module – is supposedly planned for late 2027 and will be followed by others between 2028 and 2030.
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The plan calls for the first crew to be launched six months after the first module launch.
Following its impressive early start, Russia's flagship space program has looked increasingly tired in recent years, not helped by its abrupt isolation following the country's invasion of Ukraine. China has its own space station, to which the latest crew docked yesterday, and NASA is looking beyond the ISS to the Moon alongside partners such as the European Space Agency.
Russia, on the other hand, has a scorch mark on the Moon where its latest lander, Luna 25, tried and failed to make a soft landing. The country's reputation for space hardware has also taken a battering thanks to repeated issues and leaks onboard the ISS.
According to the timelines reported by TASS, Russia intends to construct, test, and launch the first element of its space station in four years. Hopefully, with a puncture repair kit on board. ®