The ad made the headlines The Moscow Times April 19: “Russia will leave the International Space Station in 2025”!
Quoting “a senior government official” (Deputy Prime Minister Yury Borisov), MT said Russia will soon officially notify the United States and its other space partners of its withdrawal from the International Space Station (ISS) starting in 2025. , and his plans to “deploy a national next-generation orbital gas station” instead.
Basically, “withdrawing” from the ISS is not just a turn of phrase. Russia’s plan, it seems, is to physically detach the ISS modules that Russia owns from the station. And yet, in its latest report, NASA believed that the ISS could continue to operate until 2030.
Some commentators have suggested that the ISS could not function without the Russian modules (which, most importantly, include the station’s main propulsion module, which is used both to maintain a stable orbit and to maneuver around threatening orbital debris. when they get too close.). But others think the ISS could limp without the Russian parts, which could be replaced with new modules that we could send anyway.
Indeed, it is fortuitous that at the same time the (non-Russian) partners of the ISS are faced with a dilemma of how to equip the station with a new set of engines, several companies are developing fleets of “tugs space ”for ad hoc use. motors for satellites without propulsion. Nowadays, Northrop Grumman (NYSE: NOC) used two large MEV spacecraft to serve as engines on older Intelsat satellites. Maxar Technologies (NYSE: MAXR) working on a large space tugboat. And on a smaller scale, space SPACs Acquisition of stable routes (NASDAQ: SRAC) and Vector acquisition (NASDAQ: VACQ) are also developing space tugs for small satellites.
Theoretically at least, one of these companies could be recruited as part of a NASA effort to equip the ISS with a new propulsion module to replace any missing Russian parts by 2025. In short, while ‘a Russian exit from the ISS would be a problem, it is not an insurmountable problem for the American space industry – especially after four years (or more – Russia does not foresee to start exit of the ISS in 2025) to find a fix.
Perhaps the most important question for investors to ask is this: Even assuming the ISS can continue to limp after exiting Russia, the station gets a bit long in the tooth. Construction of the ISS began in 1998, and the station was originally designed for a 15-year lifespan. (Put down your pencils. The ISS should were retired in 2013.)
Obviously this did not happen, but at some point the ISS will disappear entirely. What happens then?
Well, we’ve already discussed one part of the puzzle: Russia. If and when Russia pulls out of the ISS consortium, it plans to start work on a new Russian station to replace it. Nicknamed “ROSS” – the Russian orbital gas station – work on this station is expected to start in 2025 and cost the Russian state around $ 6 billion.
That’s quite a reduction from the price of the ISS, by the way, which would have cost over $ 100 billion to assemble. Even though the ROSS turns out to be a much smaller station than the ISS, this considerably lower price suggests that the price of space launch has dropped significantly over the past 20 years.
Russia’s new space station will be designed as both a scientific and production platform, enabling manufacturing in space – as well as repairing and refueling satellites in orbit. It could even evolve into a transportation hub, housing a fleet of Russian space tugs.
Russia has also said it will cooperate with China to build a joint Sino-Russian space station that will orbit the moon – and that brings us to our second point. In addition to its joint venture with Russia, China has already started building its own space station orbiting the Earth! Centered on the Tianhe module launched last week, China’s new 66-ton “Tiangong” space station is expected to make 10 more launches to be completed, operational by 2022 and continue to operate for 10 years thereafter.
And even that’s not all. In addition to a still functional ISS, a Russian ROSS and a Chinese Tiangong, the private American company Axiom Space last year obtained permission from NASA to attach a new housing module to the ISS – a module that the company plans to later separate from the ISS to form the base of the world’s first private space station.
In short, the days of the ISS may be numbered, or it may continue to operate even longer than it already has. With or without it, however, the orbit is about to get a lot more crowded. The race to populate Earth’s orbit with new space stations has begun.
This article represents the opinion of the author, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a premium Motley Fool consulting service. We are motley! Questioning an investment thesis – even one of our own – helps us all to think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.