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- GS 3 || Science & Technology || Space || Policy
Why in news?
- After more than two decades of international cooperation in space research, Russia announced that it would be withdrawing from the International Space Station in 2025.
- Russia this week announced that it would be withdrawing from the International Space Station in 2025, and build and manage its floating laboratory that will be launched into orbit by 2030.
- The decision to leave also comes at a time when relations between Russia and the US have been steadily deteriorating on multiple fronts, with the two powers also accusing each other of militarizing space.
History of ISS
- Launched in 1998and involving Russia, the United States, Canada, Japan, and the European Space Agency, the ISS is one of the most ambitious international collaborations in human history.
- ISS is a modular space station (habitable artificial satellite) in low Earth orbit.
- The ISS serves as a microgravity and space environment research laboratory in which scientific experiments are conducted in astrobiology, astronomy, meteorology, physics, and other fields.
- The ISS circles the Earth in roughly 93 minutes, completing 15.5 orbits per day.
- ISS is the ninth space station to be inhabited by crews, following the Soviet and later Russian Salyut, Almaz, and Mir stations as well as Skylab from the US.
Importance of International Space Station
- A space station is essentially a large spacecraft that remains in low-earth orbit for extended periods.
- 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 Mir space station of the former Soviet Union, and later operated by Russia, was functional from 1986 to 2001.
- The ISS has been in space since 1998 and has been known for the exemplary cooperation between the five participating
- Space agencies that have been running it
- NASA (United States),
- JAXA (Japan)
- ESA (Europe), and
- CSA (Canada)
- For over 20 years since its launch, humans have continuously lived and carried out scientific investigations on the $150 billion
- ISS under microgravity conditions,Being able to make breakthroughs in research not possible on Earth.
- As per NASA, 243 people from 19 countries have so far visited the ISS, and the floating laboratory has hosted more than 3,000 research and educational investigations from researchers in 108 countries and areas,
- Carrying out cutting-edge research in various disciplines, including biology, human physiology, and physical, material and space science.
Significance of the space station
- The space station is essential for collecting meaningful scientific data, especially for biological experiments.
- Provide platforms for a greater number and length of scientific studies than available on other space vehicles. ( as Gaganyaan will take humans and experiments in microgravity for few days only).
- Each crew member stays aboard the station for weeks or months, but rarely more than a year.
- It would help in different microgravity science experiments in diverse fields such as astrobiology, astronomy, materials science, space medicine, and space weather.
- Space stations are used to study the effects of long-term space flight on the human body.
Issues with ISS
- 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.
- Russia was also indispensable because of its Soyuz passenger vehicle, which served as the only way for transporting astronauts to the ISS ever since the US retired its Space Shuttle Program in 2011.
- This reliance on Russia ended last year, however, when the US started to use the SpaceX system developed by Elon Musk.
- This was a major blow for Roscosmos, as this meant an end to the funding it received from NASA for carrying astronauts to the space station.
- Between 2011 and 2019, NASA had spent $3.9 billion on the Soyuz flights.
- Next year, the US is also expected to have another domestic option apart from SpaceX, as Boeing’s delayed Starlinercapsule is expected to become operational.
Russia plan of its Space Station
- Russia now plans to build and manage its space station, which it aims to launch into orbit by 2030.
- According to an Interfax report, its space module is being assembled by the Energiacorporation and is set to cost at least $5 billion.
- The station will reportedly orbit the Earth at a higher latitude, enabling it to better observe the polar regions, especially since Russia plans to develop the Arctic sea route as the ice melts.
- Building a new station would also help Russia tide over challenges that its cosmonauts currently face on the aging ISS.
- Such as conducting experiments and adapting the latest technology to a hardware architecture that is over two decades old.
- However, leaving the ISS would also mean that Russian researchers would lose access to a laboratory that has seen over 15 years of engineering and assembly work to build it, and whose research potential is only now truly expected to take off.
- NASA has ruled out retiring the ISS until at least 2028 and may continue to use it after that by upgrading key systems.
India’s Plan to build its own Space Station
- India is planning to build its space station. India will launch a small module to perform microgravity experiments for this purpose. Gaganyaan plans to send a two-to-three-person crew to space for up to seven days. The spacecraft will be launched into a 300-400 km low Earth orbit.
- After the Gaganyaan flight, the agency will send a comprehensive report to the government on how it plans to construct the space station. It is estimated that the space station would take five to seven years to conceptualize.
- The Indian space station will be a fraction of the size of the International Space Station and will be used for microgravity experiments (not for space tourism).
- ISRO (Indian Space Research Organisation) is working on the Space Docking Experiment (Spadex), a technology that will help the space station become operational. Humans can be transferred from one spacecraft to another using space docking technology.
- India’s space agency (ISRO) has specialized in low-cost space launches since the early 1960s when components of rockets were transported by bicycles and assembled by hand. In 2014, it sent a spacecraft to Mars for $74 million. In early 2017, the nation launched a flock of 104 satellites into space for 18 minutes, setting a new global record. Building a space station is not easy and carries various challenges. But it would pave a way for India to become a space superpower.
Mains model question
- What is India’s plan to have its own space station and how will it benefit our space programme?