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Russia’s withdrawal from ISS and launch of ROSS

  • Category
    International Relations
  • Published
    3rd May, 2021

Russia will launch its own space station in space by 2028 and has named it ROSS (Russian Orbital Service Station) which is seen as a new thread in technology lead space diplomacy countering International Space Station

Context

Russia will launch its own space station in space by 2028 and has named it ROSS (Russian Orbital Service Station) which is seen as a new thread in technology lead space diplomacy countering International Space Station

Background

  • In a recent development Russia has announced that it would withdraw from the International Space Station by 2025, and build its own space station that will be functional in the orbit by 2028.
  • When the decisions between Russia and USA are already strained and deteriorating on many fronts, these two powers are accusing each other of militarisation of space and it’s use for non-peaceful means.

Analysis

What is a space station?

  • The space station or orbital space station is a satellite cum laboratory cum spacecraft, which is capable to support humans on board the spacecraft for an extended time varying upto months. It does not have any major landing or propulsion system.
  • A space station should have docking ports which allows other spacecrafts to dock and transfer crew and other supplies
  • There can be many reasons to maintain a space station, they are mainly launched for civilian usage- majorly technology and science but dual purpose to aid military capabilities can’t be overlooked.

Major Space Stations

  • Salyut 1: first space station launched by Soviet Union in 1971
  • Skylab: first United States space station launched by NASA in 1973
  • Mir: Launched by USSR and was functional in low earth orbit between 1986-2001
  • International Space Station: multinational collaborative project stationed in low earth orbit launched in 1998
  • Tiangong Space Station: it is a China's program to create a modular space station. This program is sole venture of China without the help of any other nation. The program began in 1992 as Project 921-2. China is working on large multiphase construction program as of now

How International Space Station has benefited Earth?

  • Commercializing low-Earth orbit
    • For the first time in history of mankind, the market is expressing its intent towards what research can be conducted aboard under microgravity lab without any government help rather, the private companies are investing and raising capital to provide laboratory facilities for small payloads and CubeSats, which is bound to make research faster, efficient and affordable
  • Growing high-quality protein crystals
    • Microgravity allows for optimal growth of the unique and complicated crystal structures of proteins leading to the development of medical treatments. Hematopoietic prostaglandin D synthase (H-PGDS), which may hold the key to developing useful drugs for treating muscular dystrophy, is an example of a protein that was successfully crystallized in space.
  • Bringing space station ultrasound to the ends of the Earth
    • Doctors are taking up techniques originally developed for space station astronauts and adapting them for use in Earth’s farthest corners by developing protocols for performing complex procedures rapidly with remote expert guidance and training
  • Improving eye surgery with space hardware
    • The Eye Tracking Device experiment gave researchers insight into how humans’ frames of reference, balance and the overall control of eye movement are affected by weightlessness. Now the engineers have realized that this gadget also has utility on Earth among general public
  • Understanding the mechanisms of osteoporosis
    • Scientists conducted a study of mice in orbit to understand mechanisms of osteoporosis. Due to this research the Prolia® was developed on earth to treat people with osteoporosis, a direct benefit of pharmaceutical companies using the spaceflight opportunity available via space lab to improve health on Earth.
  • Providing students opportunities to conduct their own science in space
    • ISS conducts various projects like YouTube Space Lab competition, the Student Spaceflight Experiments Program, and SPHERES Zero Robotics- these types of inquiry-based projects allow students to be involved in human space exploration with the goal of stimulating their studies of science, technology, engineering and mathematics
  • Monitoring water quality from space
    • Hyperspectral Imager for the Coastal Ocean (HICO) was an imaging sensor that helped detect water quality parameters such as water clarity, phytoplankton concentrations, light absorption and the distribution of cyanobacteria.
  • Monitoring natural disasters from space
    • International Space Station has captured photographs of Earth from space which has provided tremendous aid during disaster management and developing disaster management techniques beforehand

Intended benefits from Russian Orbital Service Station (ROSS)

  • From ROSS, the astronauts can gaze whole of the territory of Russia, unlike the ISS from which they can see only 20% of the territory. 
  • It can be fitted with earth observation transponders and will keep an eye on Northern Sea Route.
  • ROSS will be a specialized industrial space station. It will have production compartments that will allow it to perform a number of new tasks that are not available on the ISS. 
  • ROSS will include a so-called slipway module, on which it will be possible to park various types of automatic spacecraft and satellites, repair them, refuel them, adjust the payload, and then send them back to autonomous flight
  • Roscosmos envisage to create a fleet of tugs attached to ROSS that will be able to launch these satellites from the station into the right orbit

Conclusion

Russia has been a crucial player in making the ISS a success, with other space agencies relying on advanced Russian modular space station construction technology to build the space station in the initial years, US was also dependent on Soyuz passenger vehicles, till last year, to transport astronauts to ISS after US shut down its Space Shuttle Program, but now NASA will use SpaceX system.

The Russia and China have also entered into an agreement for lunar exploration which is seen as counter to NASA’s Artemis program. These recent developments in the field of space technology and space diplomacy are new to their era and India must launch its own space station in coming days.

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