WASHINGTON (REUTERS, AFP) – Russia has not communicated to NASA its intent to withdraw from the International Space Station in 2024, a senior agency official told Reuters.
Russia’s new space chief claimed on Tuesday (July 26) that Moscow plans to pull out of the two-decade-old orbital partnership.
“Of course, we will fulfill all our obligations to our partners, but the decision about withdrawing from the station after 2024 has been made,” Yuri Borisov, the newly appointed director general of Russia’s space agency, told Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday.
“I think that by this time we will start putting together a Russian orbital station,” Borisov added, calling it the space programme’s main “priority”.
“Good,” Putin replied in comments released by the Kremlin.
But Robyn Gatens, the director of the space station for NASA, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, said her Russian counterparts have not communicated any such intent, as required by the station’s intergovernmental agreement, she said.
“Nothing official yet,” Gatens told Reuters at an ISS conference in Washington. “We literally just saw that as well. We haven’t gotten anything official.”
The Russian move comes as tensions rage between the Kremlin and the West over Moscow’s military intervention in Ukraine and several rounds of unprecedented sanctions against Russia.
Russia and the United States have worked side by side on the International Space Station (ISS), which has been in orbit since 1998.
Until now space exploration was one of the few areas where cooperation between Russia and the US and its allies had not been wrecked by tensions over Ukraine and elsewhere.
Borisov said the space industry was in a “difficult situation”. He said he would seek “to raise the bar, and first of all, to provide the Russian economy with the necessary space services”, pointing to navigation, communication, and data transmission, among other things.
Sending the first man into space in 1961 and launching the first satellite four years earlier are among key accomplishments of the Soviet space programme and remain a major source of national pride in Russia.
But experts say the Russian space agency remains a shadow of its former self and has in recent years suffered a series of setbacks including corruption scandals and the loss of a number of satellites and other spacecraft.
Borisov, a former deputy prime minister with a military background, has replaced Dmitry Rogozin, a firebrand nationalist politician known for his bombastic statements and eccentric behaviour.
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