(ORDO NEWS) — NASA is seeking ways to keep the International Space Station (ISS) in orbit without the help of Russian counterparts, but sees no clear signs that Moscow is suspending cooperation after the start of military operations in Ukraine, a US space agency spokesman said yesterday, Monday.
While the American side on the ISS is responsible for power supply and life support systems, the competence of the Russian side is to maintain and control the position of the station in orbit – for this, the Progress spacecraft is used, which, by periodically switching on the engines, corrects the position of the station in space, helping to maintain a given height (about 400 kilometers above the Earth‘s surface).
Last week, however, the head of the Russian space agency, Dmitry Rogozin, raised the possibility of Russia withdrawing from the collective project in response to US sanctions, after which the 400-ton structure could fall to Earth, most likely without causing significant damage to Russia, since only a small a segment of the station’s orbit lies over Russian territory.
Kathy Lueders, head of the agency’s manned spaceflight program, said: “Northrop Grumman has offered to monitor the position of the station in orbit, and SpaceX is also offering additional capabilities.”
Northrop Grumman’s latest Cygnus cargo spacecraft, which arrived at the ISS on February 21, demonstrated for the first time the ability to control the position of the station without the help of the Russian side.
Last Friday, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk tweeted his company logo in response to Rogozin’s rhetorical question about who could save the ISS from an uncontrolled deorbit.
But Lueders notes that these plans will be implemented only in emergency circumstances.
“It will be difficult for us to manage the station alone – the ISS is an international project that was created on the basis of deep interdependencies of all participants,” she said.
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