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Russia confirms participation in ISS program until 2028


Russia’s departure from the International Space Station (ISS) program, which was anticipated following the country’s invasion of Ukraine, is not so imminent after all. Last year, Russian space officials announced that the nation would leave the ISS partnership sometime after 2024 to focus on building its own low Earth orbit outpost. However, recent developments have confirmed that Russia will support continued station operations through 2028.

“Russia has confirmed it will support continued station operations through 2028,” NASA officials wrote in an update on April 27. The other major ISS partners, including the space agencies of Europe, Canada, and Japan, have committed to the orbiting lab through 2030, which is the envisioned end of its operational life.

The ISS has been continuously occupied by rotating astronaut crews since November 2000, hosting 266 people from 20 different countries and conducting over 3,300 experiments in its unique microgravity conditions. NASA officials highlighted the importance of the station entering its “decade of results,” stating that “results are compounding, new benefits are materializing, and innovative research and technology demonstrations are building on previous work.”

Although the ISS still has a considerable lifespan, NASA is already planning for the future of low Earth orbit (LEO) exploration. The agency is funding the development of multiple private space station concepts, aiming for at least one operational outpost before the ISS’s controlled reentry into Earth’s atmosphere.

NASA Administrator Bill Nelson commented on the ongoing collaboration between the US and Russia on the ISS amidst the Ukraine conflict, stating, “Collaboration aboard the ISS continues in a very professional manner between astronauts and cosmonauts without a hitch. And I expect that to continue all the way through the end of the decade when we will then de-orbit the space station.”

A sustained crewed presence in LEO is essential for humanity’s quest to expand its footprint to the moon and Mars. Commercial LEO outposts will not only allow us to continue studying the effects of off-Earth life on the human body, but they will also help stimulate an orbital economy that can drive expansion into deep space.

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