Jul 26, 2022 - Science

Russia to pull out of International Space Station after 2024

Illustration of a flag patch made up of the American and Russian flags unravelling.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Russia is set to pull out of the International Space Station after 2024, according to the Associated Press and a report from state-run news agency TASS.

Why it matters: The ISS has tied Russia and the U.S. together in space for decades, and the end of the space station program could mean the end of that relationship.

  • During times of high tension on Earth — like during the annexation of Crimea in 2014 and today during the invasion of Ukraine — space has often been one of the only open avenues of communication between the two nations.

Driving the news: "The decision to leave the station after 2024 has been made," Yuri Borisov, the newly-appointed head of Roscosmos — Russia's space agency — told Russian President Vladimir Putin according to the AP.

  • After 2024, Roscosmos is planning to focus on building its own space station.
  • "We haven't received any official word from the partner as to the news today." Robyn Gatens, NASA's director of the International Space Station, said during remarks at a conference today. "We'll be talking more about their plan going forward."

The big picture: It's not clear whether the space station can remain operational without Russia after 2024.

  • "They have been good partners as all of our partners are," Gatens said of Russia. "And we want to continue together as a partnership to continue operating the space station through the decade."
  • NASA is planning to send astronauts to private space stations after the end of the ISS, but those stations likely won't be available until the late 2020s.

Editor's note: This article has been updated with comment from NASA. It has also been corrected to reflect that the head of Roscosmos said Russia would leave the ISS "after 2024," not in 2024.

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