IAC 2022: Nasa chief confident Russia will co-operate in retiring space station

The US space agency plans to de-orbit the ISS at the end of this decade, while Russia plans to build an independent one

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Nasa is confident that Russia will co-operate in de-orbiting the International Space Station at the end of this decade.

Bill Nelson, Nasa’s administrator, was speaking at a press conference held on the first day of the International Astronautical Congress (IAC) in Paris, taking place until September 22.

Nasa and Russia are both partners on the floating laboratory, with Russian space agency Roscosmos, which performs manoeuvres on the ship using its Progress spacecraft that is docked there.

We are still planning the deorbit of the International Space Station after 2030
Bill Nelson, Nasa’s administrator

The space station is nearing its retirement date after hosting astronauts for more than two decades.

“We are still planning the deorbit of the International Space Station after 2030,” said Mr Nelson.

“However, the plans are under way. I have every reason to believe that our Russian partners on the International Space Station are going to co-operate in that.”

The comments come only two months after Roscosmos appointed a new chief, Yury Borisov.

Previous chief Dmitry Rogozin threatened to end the partnership on the ISS several times.

In 2014, he famously said Nasa can launch its astronauts “on trampolines” after the US imposed sanctions on Russia for annexing Crimea.

After sanctions were imposed against Russia over its invasion of Ukraine, Mr Rogozin made several threats, including saying that he could drop the space station on the US, Europe and India.

Nasa and Roscosmos have a delicate relationship that mostly exists because of the space station.

Roscosmos has announced plans to build an independent station.

The geopolitical situation has raised concerns that Russia could leave the ISS earlier than thought.

However, Roscosmos had said it will “fulfil all obligations” before leaving.

Mr Nelson said that he was in touch with Mr Borisov.

“I have spoken to Mr Borisov. I told him that I look forward to seeing him at first opportunity,” he said.

Roscosmos is not participating in this year’s IAC. Russian news agency Tass reported that officials did not “receive invitations and visa assistance”.

China’s space agency — China National Space Administration — was on the IAC’s official agenda and was listed as a participant in the heads of space agencies panel and press conference.

Even though Chinese officials are participating in the IAC, they did not attend the panel or press conference.

Nasa is not allowed to co-operate with China because of the Wolf Amendment — a law passed by the US Congress in 2011 that prevents the agency from working with China’s space agency and private companies.

Mr Nelson said that cooperation is “up to China” and that there “has to be an openness” from their side “that has not been forthcoming”.

China is quickly becoming a global space power, having launched missions to the Moon and Mars, and astronauts to its new space station.

“We have done deconfliction with regard to activities in and around Mars,” Mr Nelson said.

“But … we see that there’s not a lot of transparency with regard to the Chinese space programme."

China seems to be opening up its programme to some countries.

The UAE recently announced that a Chinese lander would carry a UAE rover to the lunar surface later this decade.

This would be the first collaboration in space between the two countries.

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Updated: September 19, 2022, 9:28 AM