To boldly go, no more? Russian ISS cosmonauts may soon be prevented from leaving station as spacesuits approach end of warranty
Russian cosmonauts on the International Space Station may soon have to stop going on walks outside the craft, because the existing spacesuits are near the end of their working life, and no contract has been signed to make more.
That’s according to Sergey Pozdnyakov, the general designer of Zvezda, a Russian producer of life-support systems for human spaceflight. The current outfits, named ‘Orlan’, are created by his company.
Speaking to news agency RIA Novosti, Pozdnyakov blamed “the bureaucratic swamp” for the lack of new spacesuits, explaining that the sheer number of required approvals means that prompt production is impossible.
“We need new spacesuits,” Pozdnyakov explained. “For three years, I have been trying to convince [Russian Space Agency Roscosmos] that it is necessary to start producing a new batch of spacesuits. But so far, there is no contract for production.”
He also noted that the delay in ordering the suits means that the price has gone up, as some of the material supplies no longer exist.
“Unfortunately, it takes years to agree on specifications. If Elon Musk found out about what time of approval chain is required, he would simply laugh at us.”
Russian astronauts have been wearing Orlan spacesuits since the 1970s, with the current version, the Orlan-MKS, in use since 2017. The newest models are designed to last for 20 spacewalks.
Later this month, a brand-new module named ‘Nauka’ will arrive at the ISS. According to Pozdnyakov, attaching the new component will require around 10 spacewalks, taking up half of the life of the existing suits, which have been partially used up already.
Earlier this year, Roscosmos head Dmitry Rogozin revealed that Moscow would withdraw from the ISS project in 2025 and create its own space station if the US continued to impose sanctions against the Russian space sector. President Vladimir Putin has already signed off on a project for a Russian-only orbital station, due to consist of three to seven modules.
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