Despite the United States and Russia’s deteriorating relationship here on Earth, Russia is still considering extending its participation on the International Space Station through 2030, according to NASA. However, it could be a few months before there is a solid update on Russia’s official stance.
NASA and Russia’s state space corporation, Roscosmos, have been the two largest partners on the International Space Station for the last three decades. The two organizations have agreed to work together on the ISS through 2024, but at the end of last year, the Biden administration announced its intentions to extend the space station program through 2030. Russia has not formally agreed to the extension yet.
Roscosmos’s participation in the extension started to seem unlikely after Russia invaded Ukraine in February. In response to the war, the United States sanctioned Russia’s major industries, which triggered outrage from the head of Roscosmos, Dmitry Rogozin. On Twitter, Rogozin made wild threats about the future of the ISS, insinuating that the station could come crashing down on the United States if Russia withdrew prematurely from the program. He has also hinted at revisiting the partnership with the US in light of the sanctions.
But even after all that bluster, Roscosmos apparently has not given a hard “no” on the extension and may even continue it. “All of our international partners, including Roscosmos, are making progress on moving towards station extension through 2030,” Kathy Lueders, associate administrator of space operations at NASA, said during a press conference today, adding that every partner on the ISS must go through a budget process and receive final government approval before the extension is set. “But we all understand the importance of this continued partnership, even in really, really, really tough times,” Lueders said.
Joel Montalbano, NASA’s ISS program manager, discussed the possible extension in Russia with Roscosmos officials as NASA prepared for the return of astronaut Mark Vande Hei on a Russian Soyuz rocket this week. “At the program level, we continue discussions and continue working towards 2030,” Dana Weigel, deputy manager of NASA’s International Space Station program, said during the press conference. “They touched on the subject of when Joel Montalbano was in Russia, and no changes at all to the plan.”
Weigel noted that NASA expects to get its next big update on extension plans in late April or early May. It’s hard to know what state Russia and the United States’ relationship will be in by that point, but for now, there is the possibility the countries’ partnership in space could continue.