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The International Space Station (ISS) is dangerous and unfit for purpose, Russia’s space chief said Thursday, as Moscow pushes ahead with plans to end the project and launch its own station. Yuri Borisov, head of the Roscosmos agency, said mass equipment failures and aging components threaten the safety of the crew at the 24-year-old station.
The ISS has been a rare area of cooperation between the United States and Russia, even as diplomatic relations have soured. But since Russia invaded Ukraine in February and was subjected to a barrage of Western sanctions, it has become more focused on abandoning and launching its own space station sometime after 2024.
“Technically, the ISS has exceeded all of its warranty periods. This is dangerous,” said Borisov. “An avalanche process of device failure begins, cracks appear.”
He said the Russian station will orbit Earth around the poles, allowing it to look down on much more of Russia’s vast territory and collect new data on cosmic rays. The ISS was launched in 1998 and has been continuously occupied since November 2000 by a US-Russia-led partnership that also includes Canada, Japan and 11 European countries. The American space agency NASA wants to keep it in operation until 2030.
Last month, Borisov unveiled a model of the planned Russian station, which he said on Thursday would be open to cooperation with “friendly countries”. Borisov, a former deputy prime minister with a defense background, said Western sanctions against Russia’s space industry had destroyed prospects for further cooperation.
He highlighted the European Space Agency’s decision to end cooperation with Russia on the ExoMars rover, which should hunt for life on Mars by the end of the decade. “There has been a huge amount of effort and huge sums of money put into this… but has politics intervened and what is the result? It shouldn’t be like that, it’s wrong,” Borisov said.
Moscow is now seeking cooperation with China and other “friendly countries”. In particular, Borisov said that Russia is “looking to communicate with our closest colleagues, especially China” to join efforts in lunar and deep space exploration.