Russia has been a key collaborator on the International Space Station since it began construction in 1998, but the country's future at the space outpost has been in doubt in recent years -- and particularly since Russia began its war in Ukraine five months ago. File Photo courtesy NASA
July 26 (UPI) -- The new head of Russia's space agency announced on Tuesday that Moscow will abandon the International Space Station in about two years when it completes its obligations -- ending a 23-year collaboration with U.S., European and other partners.
Yury Borisov, the newly installed chief of Roscosmos, made the remarks during a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin and described the space program as the country's main "priority."
After 2024, Borisov said that Russia would build its own space station, estimated to cost about $6 billion.
"Of course, we will fulfill all our obligations to our partners, but the decision to leave this station after 2024 has been made," Borisov said according to The Moscow Times.
"I think that by that time we will start putting together a Russian orbital station."
Russia has been a key collaborator on the International Space Station since it began construction in 1998, but the country's future at the space outpost has been in doubt in recent years -- and particularly since Russia began its war in Ukraine five months ago, which has left Moscow isolated from much of the world and drawn serious fiscal sanctions.
Astronaut James Newman performs a spacewalk to connect the first two pieces of the International Space Station on December 7, 1998. NASA expects to deorbit the station in 2031 and crash it into the Pacific Ocean. File Photo by NASA/UPI
Russia has also lost significant revenue over the last few years because it no longer has to carry American astronauts into space. After the Space Shuttle was retired and before SpaceX and NASA began working together, the United States paid tens of millions of dollars for seats aboard Russian rockets to get to the ISS.
Dmitry Rogozin, who was in charge of Roscosmos earlier this year when the Ukraine war began, threatened to pull cosmonauts off the station in April after the United States and other governments imposed the punitive economic sanctions.
Despite the tensions, NASA and Roscosmos worked out a deal for Russian cosmonauts and American astronauts to keep working together on the space station after decades of cooperation that began with the launch of the first section of the ISS in November 1998. Cosmonauts are expected to be aboard with astronauts this fall when SpaceX delivers a new crew.
In plans published earlier this year, NASA called the long-term future of the space station unsustainable and said the agency would crash the orbiting space outpost into the Pacific Ocean in 2031.
Others -- notably Canada, Japan and the European Space Agency -- have also been partners for decades on the space station.
During Tuesday's announcement, Roscosmos unveiled a model of Russia's new planned orbital station.
The edge of a nearby, young, star-forming region, NGC 3324 in the Carina Nebula. Captured in infrared light by the Near-Infrared Camera (NIRCam) on NASA's James Webb Space Telescope, this image, released on July 12, 2022, reveals previously obscured areas of star birth. Photo courtesy of NASA | License Photo