May 18, 2024

Future of the International Space Station Threatened by Russian Invasion of Ukraine and Resulting US Sanctions

Built and run by the U.S., Russia, Europe, Japan and Canada, the ISS has actually revealed how countries can work together on significant tasks in area. The station has been continually inhabited for over 20 years and has actually hosted more than 250 individuals from 19 nations.
As an area policy expert, the ISS represents, to me, a high point of cooperation in space expedition. But for the current team of two Russians, 4 Americans and one German, things may be getting worrisome as stress increase between the U.S. and Russia.
A number of agreements and systems remain in place to make sure that the space station can operate smoothly while being run by 5 different space firms. Since Feb. 24, there were no statements of unusual actions aboard the station in spite of the continuous Russian intrusion of Ukraine. But the Russian federal government has actually brought the ISS into geopolitics prior to and is doing so again.
Managing the ISS
What became understood as the International Space Station was first developed on NASA drawing boards in the early 1980s. As expenses rose past preliminary price quotes, NASA officials invited global partners from the European Space Agency, Canada and Japan to sign up with the project.
When the Soviet Union collapsed at the end of the Cold War in the early 1990s, the Russian space program discovered itself in alarming straits, struggling with lack of financing and an exodus of engineers and program officials. To make the most of Russian knowledge in area stations and foster post-Cold War cooperation, the NASA administrator at the time, Dan Goldin, persuaded the Clinton administration to bring Russia into the program that was rechristened the International Space Station.
By 1998, simply prior to the launch of the very first modules, Russia, the U.S. and the other worldwide partners of the ISS participated in memorandums of understanding that spelled out how major decisions would be made and what kind of control each country would have more than different parts of the station.
The body that governs the operation of the spaceport station is the Multilateral Coordination Board. This board has representatives from each of the area agencies associated with the ISS and is chaired by the U.S. The board runs by agreement in making choices on things like a standard procedure for ISS teams.
Even amongst international partners who wish to collaborate, agreement is not always possible. If this happens, either the chair of the board can make decisions on how to move on or the problem can be raised to the NASA administrator and the head of the Russian space company, Roscosmos.
The International Space Station is built of numerous private modules that are completely under the control of the countries or firms that constructed them. Credit: NASA/ Colds7ream, Fritzbox, Johndrinkwater, Ras67, Chepry via Wikimedia Commons
Territories in area
While the general operations of the station are run by the Multilateral Coordination Board, things are more complicated when it pertains to the modules themselves.
The International Space Station is made from 16 various segments constructed by different nations, consisting of the U.S., Russia, Japan, Italy and the European Space Agency. Under the ISS arrangements, each nation maintains control over how its modules are used. This consists of the Russian Zarya, which provides electrical energy and propulsion to the station, and Zvezda, which offers all of the stations life assistance systems like oxygen production and water recycling.
If they are territorial extensions of their nations of origin, the outcome is that ISS modules are dealt with legally as. While all crew onboard can theoretically be in and use any of the modules, how they are used need to be authorized by each nation.
For almost 10 years, the Russian Soyuz rocket was the only method for astronauts to get to the ISS. Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls
International stress and the ISS
While the ISS has actually functioned under this structure extremely well given that its launch more than 20 years back, there have actually been some disputes.
When Russian forces annexed the Ukrainian area of Crimea in 2014, the U.S. enforced financial sanctions on Russia. As a result, Russian officials revealed that they would no longer release U.S. astronauts to and from the spaceport station beginning in 2020. Because NASA had actually retired the area shuttle bus in 2011, the U.S. was entirely based on Russian rockets to get astronauts to and from the ISS, and this danger could have meant the end of the American existence aboard the spaceport station totally.
While Russia did not follow through on its hazard and continued to transfer U.S. astronauts, the danger needed to be taken seriously. The U.S. has actually been relying on private SpaceX rockets to carry astronauts to and from the ISS.
The intrusion of Ukraine does appear to have upped the strength of geopolitical maneuvering including the ISS.
The brand-new U.S. sanctions are developed to “deteriorate their aerospace market, including their space program.” The tweet in response from Dmitry Rogozin, the head of Roscosmos, “discussed” that Russian modules are key to moving the station when it requires to dodge area junk or change its orbit. He went on to state that Russia might either decline to move the station when required and even crash it into the U.S., Europe, India or China.
Though dramatic, this is likely an idle risk due to both political consequences and the practical problem of getting Russian cosmonauts off the ISS securely. But I am concerned about how the intrusion will affect the staying years of the spaceport station.
In December 2021, the U.S. announced its intention to extend operation of ISS operations from its planned end date of 2024 to 2030. Many ISS partners revealed support for the plan, however Russia will also need to agree to keep the ISS operating beyond 2024. Without Russias support, the station– and all of its clinical and cooperative achievements– might face an early end.
The ISS has functioned as a prime example for how countries can comply with one another in an endeavor that has been reasonably devoid of politics. Increasing tensions, hazards and more aggressive Russian actions– including its current test of anti-satellite weapons– are straining the truths of global cooperation in area going forward.
Written by Wendy Whitman Cobb, Professor of Strategy and Security Studies, Air University.
This article was first released in The Conversation.

Numerous arrangements and systems are in place to make sure that the area station can operate smoothly while being run by five various area companies. The International Space Station is made of 16 different segments constructed by different nations, consisting of the U.S., Russia, Japan, Italy and the European Space Agency. As a result, Russian authorities revealed that they would no longer introduce U.S. astronauts to and from the space station beginning in 2020. Because NASA had retired the area shuttle bus in 2011, the U.S. was completely reliant on Russian rockets to get astronauts to and from the ISS, and this hazard might have meant the end of the American existence aboard the area station completely.
The tweet in response from Dmitry Rogozin, the head of Roscosmos, “discussed” that Russian modules are crucial to moving the station when it needs to dodge space junk or change its orbit.

The International Space Station is run collectively by the U.S., Russia, the European Space Agency, Japan and Canada. Credit: NASA Johnson
New U.S. sanctions on Russia will incorporate Russias space agency, Roscosmos, according to a speech U.S. President Joe Biden gave on February 24, 2022.
In response to these sanctions, the head of Roscosmos on the very same day posted a tweet saying, amongst other things, “If you block cooperation with us, who will save the ISS from an unchecked deorbit and fall under the United States or Europe?”
The International Space Station has often remained above the fray of geopolitics. That position is under risk.