Russia has doubled down on its threat to pull out of the International Space Station (ISS) due to sanctions put on the country due to its invasion of Ukraine. State media reports Roscosmos will give its international partners 12 months’ notice before departure.
After threatening to quit back in early March, the head of the Russian space agency Roscosmos now says they intend on handing in their notice to their partners on the ISS, ending over 21 years of close collaboration between Russia and the US, European Union, Canada, and Japan in low-Earth orbit.
“The decision has already been made, we are not obliged to speak about it publicly. I can only say one thing: in accordance with our obligations, we will warn our partners a year in advance about the end of work on the ISS,” Dmitry Rogozin, Director General of Roscosmos, told Russian state media.
Rogozin previously stated that “normal relations” between partners on the ISS could only be restored after “the complete and unconditional lifting of illegal sanctions.”
Work on the ISS has already been stalled due to the fallout of the war on Ukraine. Roscosmos previously said that it would not cooperate with European partners on joint experiments on the Russian segment of the ISS, saying that it now intends to “conduct them independently.”
However, Russia can’t simply pack up and head home to Earth; there are a number of practical and contractual protocols they will have to follow before they can pull out of the ISS. Under the present agreement, the ISS is authorized to remain in operation until at least 2024. While the US has expressed a desire to keep the project going until 2030, Roscosmos said it will leave the ISS in 2024, the earliest possible time for withdrawal. It’s unclear where Russia’s withdrawal will leave the US’s intentions to continue the project until the end of the decade.
In a typical provocative statement, Rogozin had previously suggested that Russia may simply “jump ship” from the ISS, causing it to crash to Earth. That vision seems very unlikely, but it certainly does look like Russia is taking its threat to leave the ISS seriously.