Report: Former Energia head – ISS could remain on orbit through 2028
After a year’s worth of statements that, among other things, Russia would cease its involvement with the International Space Station (ISS ) and that it was going to field its own space station by 2017 – a former member of Russia’s aerospace industry has stated Russia could stay with the ISS as long as 2028, or, at least, that was how long the outpost would likely be serviceable for. According to statements made on the Russian News Agency by Vitaly Lopota, the space station has an operational service life that could see it still on orbit – until 2028.
Lopota, the one time head of Russia’s Energia Space Corporation made these statements to reporters on Monday, Dec. 29. Lopota’s comments were posted on the Itar-TASS website which included the following:
“The program of using the ISS has been agreed up to 2020, and now the issue of using it until 2024 is being discussed, and the time limit for using the station will be until 2028, if political events allow (it),” Lopota said.
In March of last year (2014) Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin inferred that Russia would back out of the ISS by 2020.
This was followed a few months later by comments made by the current head of the Russian Federal Space Agency or “Roscosmos” – Oleg Ostapenko. Ostapenko stated that the remaining Russian ISS components, which have yet to be launched – should be used for a Russian space station – it is unclear what exactly Russia has in mind in terms of its involvement with the ISS. According to reports, Ostapenko has stated that Russia could field this new station – as early as 2017.
Russia, utilizing a Proton rocket, sent the Zarya, or the “Functional Cargo Block” (FGB) portion of the outpost to orbit in 1998, with the Zvezda module joining it in July of 2000.
The Russian Pirs component lifted off on Sept. 14, 2001 on ISS Assembly Mission 4R. Roscosmos utilized a Soyuz-U booster to ferry it aloft. A modified Progress cargo vessel (Progress M-SO1) was put into service as the spacecraft’s upper stage.
Similarly, the Russian Poisk segment of the ISS was launched on another Soyuz-U booster with another modified Progress spacecraft serving as the upper stage (Progress M-MIM2). Other Russian components of the ISS found their way to orbit via a launch vehicle – not of Russian design.
The Rassvet Mini-Research Module 1 (MRM-1) was carried to orbit on NASA’s now-retired space shuttle Atlantis on mission STS-132 in 2010.
The elements that still have to be sent to the ISS are the Nauka and Uzlovoy modules. Nauka also known as the Multipurpose Laboratory Module (MLM) or FGB-2 – and is Russia’s major laboratory component with Uzlovoy being, essentially, a docking module. It is unclear how these components would be capable of producing something even remotely comparable to the ISS, which has numerous U.S., Russian, European, Japanese and Canadian components comprising its structure. The International Space Station, is the largest spacecraft ever fielded and is about the size of a typical U.S. football field.
When viewed in totality, the comments made by Russian officials in the past year suggest a lack of consensus, at best, in terms of what the country that sent the first person into orbit has planned for its future crewed space exploration efforts.
“We currently project that we’ll require the ISS until 2020,” Rogozin stated in May of 2014. “We need to understand how much profit we’re making by using the station, calculate all the expenses and depending on the results decide what to do next.”
Jason Rhian spent several years honing his skills with internships at NASA, the National Space Society and other organizations. He has provided content for outlets such as: Aviation Week & Space Technology, Space.com, The Mars Society and Universe Today.