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The functioning of the ISS after sanctions

  • Category
    Science & Technology
  • Published
    22nd Mar, 2022

Context

After Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, the U.S. imposed sanctions on Russia including a ban on transfer of technology and on Russian banks.

  • Following this, the Russian space agency Roscosmos said that The State Corporation will not co-operate with Germany on joint experiments in the Russian segment of the International Space Station.
  • Roscosmos will conduct them independently. The Russian space programme against the backdrop of sanctions will be adjusted, the priority will be creation of satellites in the interests of defence.

Analysis

What is the ISS?

  • The ISS (International Space Station) was launched in 1998 as part of joint efforts by the U.S., Russia, Japan, Canada and Europe.
  • The space station was assembled over many years, and it operates in low-earth orbit.
  • Since its inception, it has served as a laboratory suspended in space and has aided multiple scientific and technological developments.
  • The ISS was originally built to operate for 15 years.

Why was ISS launched?

  • A space station permits quantum leaps in research in science, communications, and in metals and lifesaving medicines which could be manufactured only in space.
  • ISS has consistently maintained human presence for the past 21 years, providing astronauts with sophisticated technologies for scientific research.

What is Russia’s role in maintaining the ISS?

  • The ISS is built with the co-operation of scientists from five international space agencies —
    • NASA of the U.S.
    • Roscosmos of Russia
    • JAXA of Japan
    • Canadian Space Agency
    • European Space Agency
  • Each agency has a role to play and a share in the upkeep of the ISS.
  • Both in terms of expense and effort, it is not a feat that a single country can support.
  • Russia’s part in the collaboration is the module responsible for making course corrections to the orbit of the ISS.
  • They also ferry astronauts to the ISS from the Earth and back.
  • Until SpaceX’s dragon spacecraft came into the picture the Russian spacecrafts were the only way of reaching the ISS and returning.

Why does the orbit of the ISS need to be corrected?

  • Due to its enormous weight and the ensuing drag, the ISS tends to sink from its orbit at a height of about 250 miles above the Earth.
  • It has to be pushed up to its original line of motion every now and then.
  • Approximately once a month this effort has to be made. It is not necessarily a regular operation, and may be missed once and compensated for later.
  • The other reason for altering the path of the ISS is to avoid its collision with space debris, which can damage the station. These manoeuvres need to be done as and when the debris is encountered.

What is the future of space stations?

  • The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has announced plans to retire and decommission the International Space Station (ISS) by 2031.
  • As the ISS plans to end operations in space, new players are already lining up to replace it.
  • In January 2022, China announced that its space station will be ready for operations this year.
  • Blue Origin, the aerospace company founded by Jeff Bezos, has also announced its plans to build Orbital Reef, a commercially developed, owned, and operated space station in low-earth orbit.
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