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As International Space Station shows signs of falling apart, Putin approves ambitious plan for Russia to make its own replacement

As International Space Station shows signs of falling apart, Putin approves ambitious plan for Russia to make its own replacement
Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed off on plans for the country to begin the construction of a manned orbital satellite to eventually replace the International Space Station (ISS), which appears to be on its last legs.

In recent years, the ISS has begun to fall apart, with astronauts now frequently discovering cracks. Last week, it was revealed that Russian cosmonauts were still working on plugging a leak first noticed in 2019. The ongoing problems with the international station have prompted Moscow to begin creating a replacement.

Called ROSS, the Russian orbital satellite will consist of three to seven modules and will be able to carry up to four people. Although only approved by Putin on Monday, on the 60th anniversary of Yuri Gagarin’s landmark first human spaceflight, the project has been in the works for some time. Last November, the first deputy designer general for space contractor RSC Energia revealed his belief that Russia needed to get started on a new station, saying the ISS was already falling apart.

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“Until 2025, Russia has obligations to participate in the ISS program,” Vladimir Solovyov told the Russian Academy of Sciences. “There are already a number of elements that have been seriously damaged and are out of service. Many of them are not replaceable. After 2025, we predict an avalanche-like failure of numerous elements onboard the ISS.”

Russia has a long history of making its own satellites, with Sputnik 1 being the first to ever be launched into low Earth orbit, all the way back in 1957. In 1986, the Soviets launched a domestically made space station named Mir, which at the time was the largest artificial satellite in orbit.

Last May, Russian space agency Roscomos revealed that the proposed ROSS could be ready for deployment after 2024.

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Despite Moscow’s willingness to go it alone, Roscosmos has reaffirmed its commitment to international cooperation in recent months. Earlier this month, Russia signed off on a plan to continue to collaborate with the US in space, and the two nations are due to use each other’s rockets to head into the cosmos. Roscosmos also signed a moon exploration deal with China in March, with the space agency agreeing to share a lunar station with Beijing.

While space has often been a place for international competition, both Washington and Moscow regularly help each other in times of need. For example, earlier this year, American astronauts donated food to their Russian counterparts when supplies from Earth were delayed.

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