Days after Russian cosmonauts pointed at cracks on the International Space Station (ISS), Moscow on Tuesday announced its plans to create a new space station that will be “more efficient” than the present flying laboratory. The announcement was made by the general director of the Russian space agency, Roscosmos, Dmitry Rogozin.
In a statement, the Russian space agency chief said that Roscosmos plans to create a Russian orbital service station with an efficiency higher than that of the ISS. “We want to make a station, the efficiency of which will be several orders of magnitude higher than that of the ISS,” Rogozin was quoted as saying by TASS.
He stated that the new station, which is scheduled to begin deployment in five to six years, will have elements of artificial intelligence along with extravehicular robots that will likely reduce the pressure on cosmonauts from walking out of the airlock to conduct repairs and maintenance of the orbital outpost.
According to Rogozin, the station in combination with the promising nuclear tug “Zeus” can become a prototype for future systems of long-term interplanetary space flights.
The latest announcement comes just days after Russian cosmonauts discovered cracks in one of the segments of the flying laboratory that could widen in the coming months. “Superficial fissures have been found in some places on the Zarya module. This is bad and suggests that the fissures will begin to spread over time,” Vladimir Solovyov, chief engineer of rocket and space corporation Energia, told RIA news agency.
Russia had already hinted at walking out of the International Space Station, which is in the last leg of its operation life. Moscow had warned the United States to lift sanctions imposed on the space sector or else it will withdraw from the ISS. Russia has been deliberating over withdrawing from the ISS, which is reaching its operational deadline, by 2025.
The sanctions that Rogozin talked about date back to 2014, when the US and western countries came down upon Moscow in the wake of its annexation of Crimea from Ukraine.
Rogozin had in April this year said that by 2030, Russia will be able to launch its own space station in orbit if President Vladimir Putin gives the go-ahead. According to reports, Moscow is planning to spend up to $6 billion for the ambitious project amid its growing proximity with Beijing, which has also been a cause of concern for Washington. The two countries have already joined hands to develop a Joint International Lunar Research Station (ILRS) on the Moon.
The two countries are now looking for collaboration from other nations for long-term, autonomous and comprehensive scientific experiments base on the lunar surface.
The US is already investigating reasons behind a recent mishap on the space station after the Russian Nauka module fired inadvertently throwing the flying laboratory in an uncontrolled spin. Washington has been calling partnering nations including Canada and Europe to keep the Space Station functioning amid a new alternative from China’s under-construction space Station Tinagong.
While the ISS reaches its operational age, Nasa has been pushing for extending its services till 2030, however, Russia’s exit could jeopardise its plans.