Russia’s largest space laboratory to date will dock at the International Space Station (ISS) today after being launched July 21st.
The Multipurpose Research Module was originally slated to launch in 2007 but was delayed 14 years for technical reasons. It may be the final module contributed to the ISS by the Russians, who have threatened to pull out of the ISS over American sanctions on their space sector and build their own station.
Due to NASA’s reliance on Roskosmos vehicles to transport American cargo and crew onto the ISS, past American administrations have been reluctant to apply sanctions to Russia’s space sector. However, over the last few years Roskosmos has been largely replaced by domestic private contractors like SpaceX, allowing American sanctions to be expanded.
Though Roskosmos has the technical ability to build their own station, they are unlikely to do so, meaning Russia will likely stay in the ISS project until its planned conclusion between 2024 and 2028. Roskosmos would first have to dig itself out of the $400 million/year gap created in its budget by NASA’s switch to private contractors, and the Russian government’s focus in space is likely to remain national security rather than prestige projects.
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Connor is a Content Editor and Analyst on the Daily Brief team and a member of the Communications team. His primary research focus is Latin America