A recent report from the Russian manufacturer RSC Energia, the lead developer and contractor of the Russian manned space flight program, states that a number of elements aboard the International Space Station are on the brink of catastrophic failure. The damage has become so severe that it will become too expensive to repair, which is why Russia should focus on completing its own orbital station, said Vladimir Alekseevich Soloviev, Flight Director of the Russian segment of the ISS.
Until 2025, Russia has obligations to participate in the International Space Station program. There are already a number of elements that have been seriously affected by damage and are out of service. Many of them are not replaceable. After 2025, we predict an avalanche failure of numerous elements on board the ISS, ”said Soloviev, who is also the first deputy general designer for flight operations at Energia.
The comments were made by Soloviev at a meeting of the Russian Academy of Sciences Council on Space, which took place on November 25, 2020, and were reported by Scientific Russia on their website.
Among the participants were the president of the Russian Academy of Sciences and president of the meeting, Alexander Mikhailovich Sergeev, former director of the Space Research Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences (IKI RAS), Lev Matveyevich Zeleny, vice president of the Russian Academy of Sciences Yuri Balega and Director of the Russian Scientific Center for Missiles and Spacecraft, TsNIIMASH, Alexander Milkovskii.
During the discussion, the Flight Director also noted that estimates to solve the problems on board the ISS would be around 10-15 billion rubles, a cost considered “too high” by RSC Energia.
Instead, Soloviev said, it is necessary to “review the conditions for further participation in the program” and focus on the implementation of the Russian Orbital Service Station (ROSS), which is currently under development at RSC Energia.
ROSS is expected to consist of three to seven modules that can be run automatically or with a crew of two to four people. Since the modules are replaceable, the station would have an indefinite life. The deployment of ROSS is expected sometime after 2024, but no exact dates have been mentioned.
Soloviev’s damning remarks were quickly circulated by the Russian media as an indirect suggestion by the Flight Director that RSC Energia wanted to end the countries’ participation in the International Space Station program.
This was later renounced by the Roscosmos press service, which was forced to release an official denial of the information within hours of the news reaching mainstream Russian media.
The quote from Vladimir Solovyov, RSC Energia’s first deputy designer general for flight operations, “contradicts reality,” said the official rebuttal by Roscosmos, adding that his comments “were of an informational nature and did not contain any proposals for participation. to end the ISS “.
The rebuttal went on to say that the operational life of the ISS “depends on both technical and political issues discussed with partners.” Regardless, Roscosmos said, the agency plans to begin consultations with NASA and other partners on these topics early next year.
Interestingly, the refutation by Roscosmos did not deny Solovyov’s comments about the apparently disastrous condition of the ISS.
Instead, the space agency’s press service reaffirmed that Roscosmos is awaiting proposals and a technical note from RSC Energia on the new multipurpose orbital station. After consideration by the Roscosmos Scientific and Technical Council, the project will then be discussed with the government, the rebuttal said.
The ISS was plagued by an ongoing air leak this year and had to relocate three times in 2020 alone to avoid debris. Last year, however, NASA said it was considering allowing two short-lived private astronaut missions per year to the space station to boost the economy beyond the world; the US agency has even published detailed guidelines for private companies seeking to apply to use the ISS. These can be read here.