Russia intends to withdraw from the International Space Station after 2024, according to an announcement from Yuri Borisov, the new head of the Russian space agency, Roscosmos, in a meeting with Vladimir Putin on July 26, 2022. Borisov also said future efforts will focus on a new a Russian space station.
Current agreements on the ISS have it operating through 2024, and the station needs Russian modules to stay in orbit. The U.S. and its partners have been seeking to extend the station’s life to 2030. Russia’s announcement, while not a breach of any agreement or an immediate threat to the station’s daily operation, does mark the culmination of months of political tensions involving the ISS.
Over its 23-year lifetime, the station has been an important example of how Russia and the U.S. can work together despite being former adversaries. This cooperation has been especially significant as the countries’ relationship has deteriorated in recent years. While it remains unclear whether the Russians will follow through with this announcement, it does add significant stress to the operation of the most successful international cooperation in space ever. As a scholar who studies space policy, I think the question now is whether the political relationship has gotten so bad that working together in space becomes impossible.