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Russian space agency’s threat on International Space Station amid Ukraine crisis

  • Published
    28th Feb, 2022
Context

Russia's space agency chief has warned the US that the slew of sanctions imposed on Moscow can "destroy our cooperation" on the International Space Station (ISS).

About

About International Space Station:

  • A space station is essentially a large spacecraft which remains in low-earth orbit for extended periods of time.
  • The International Space Station is the only operational space laboratory as of now.
  • It is orbiting the earth in a trajectory that is about 400 km above the land surface.
  • It is like a large laboratory in space, and allows astronauts to come aboard and stay for weeks or months to carry out experiments in microgravity.
  • The ISS has been in space since 1998, and has been known for the exemplary cooperation between the five participating space agencies that run it: NASA (United States), Roscosmos (Russia), JAXA (Japan), ESA (Europe), and CSA (Canada).
  • It completes one journey around the earth in about one and a half hours. In one day, therefore, it makes about 16 trips around the world.
  • At any given time, there is a crew of six astronauts on board. Right now, seven astronauts, four from the United States, two from Russia (it prefers to call them cosmonauts) and one from Germany, are at ISS. 
  • The facility is used for carrying out a variety of zero-gravity experiments, space exploratory studies, and technology development.
  • The ISS is not the first space station to be built and operated.
  • Several smaller space stations have been used earlier, the most famous of which have been the Russian Mir space station that operated in the 1980s, and the American Skylab.

What is the threat?

  • The threat from chief of Russian space agency emanates from the fact that Russia provides the propulsion system of the ISS which keeps it in the pre-defined orbit.
  • The ISS has two broad segments, one each managed by the United States and Russia.
  • While the US manages power and the systems that make the spacecraft habitable, Russia is responsible for keeping it in orbit.
  • ISS is not entirely in zero-gravity space.
  • It does encounter a little bit of gravity.
  • Also, it loses a bit of energy as it moves around the earth.
  • Left to itself, the ISS would fall down.
  • The Russians periodically send thrusters that attach themselves to the ISS and impart the required momentum to keep it going.
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