NASA considering how to keep International Space Station in orbit without Russia

Nasa's 'James Webb Space Telescope' launches into orbit

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Last week, Dmitry Rogozin, head of Roscosmos, the Russian equivalent of NASA, raised the prospect of withdrawal because of US sanctions. However, so far there are no indications that Moscow is going to withdraw cooperation.

The US supplies power and life support on the ISS while Russia is responsible for propulsion and keeping the station afloat.

This is done through the use of a progress spacecraft giving the station a boost to maintain its altitude of around 250 miles.

Kathy Lueders, who heads the human space program at NASA, said that US aerospace and defence company Northrop Grumman had offered to help with reboost capacity.

She said: “And, you know, our SpaceX folks are looking at can we have additional capability.

“We always look for how do we get more operational flexibility, and our cargo providers are looking at how do we add different capabilities.”

A Northrop Grumman cargo vessel arrived at the ISS on 21 February and “reboosted” the station without Russian help for the first time.

Rogozin has asked the rhetorical question about who would save the ISS from an uncontrollable de-orbit in the case of a Russian withdrawal from the project.

Writing on Twitter in response, SpaceX boss Elon Musk tweeted his own company’s logo. 

At present Launders has made it clear that such plans are being drawn up on a contingency basis and it would be difficult for the US to run the ISS without Russian assistance.

She said: “It would be very difficult for us to be operating on our own.

“ISS is an international partnership that was created … with joint dependencies.

“As a team, we are looking at where we may have operational flexibilities 

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“But … it would be a sad day for international operations if we can’t continue to peacefully operate in space.”

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