Roscosmos chief Dmitry Rogozin put out a video in April 2021, showing what he said was a module for the new ROSS space station. (Photo: Roscosmos)
Plans for Russia to build its own orbital station could enable geospatial intelligence-gathering missions and onboard military experiments away from international observers.
During the St Petersburg International Economic Forum on 2-5 June 2021, Russia once again announced it is considering withdrawing from the 14-country International Space Station (ISS) programme.
Yuri Borisov, deputy prime minister with responsibility for the defence and space industries, said that Russia has already conducted all the possible experiments on the current orbital station and, according to expert calculations, there is no need to continue investing resources and money on the ISS.
Instead, Russia would focus on building its own Russian Orbital Service Station (ROSS) after 2025.
If ROSS is implemented, what will this mean for Russian manned astronautics?
The ISS reaches end-of-life status in 2024, and unanimous agreement among all involved in the project is needed to extend it.
Borisov said that ROSS would be launched into a polar orbit with an inclination of 98 degrees, which is more convenient for observing Russian territory, unlike the ISS, which operates in an orbit with an inclination of 53 degrees, from where the northern territories of Russia are almost invisible.
ROSS will initially consist of the NEM science and technology modules, plus the Prichal universal hub module created originally for the ISS project. Two more modules will then be added: an airlock module and a transformable module.
The station is expected to be periodically tended. In other words, the crew will not be there permanently as on the ISS. Crews will fly there for a few months to carry out specific projects, as was done on the Soviet Salyut orbital stations, some of which were created to meet the needs of the MoD. The absence of international observers and other countries on the station would make it easier for the Russian side to work on military experiments.
The lack of Russian miniaturised reconnaissance equipment of comparable quality to that in the West will also make it possible to conduct more effective geospatial intelligence than is possible from satellites. One more advantage is the potential to change and upgrade equipment during astronaut visits.
Development of ROSS is expected to start by the end of Q3 2021. If the necessary funding is allocated, the first basic module of the station is expected to be launched into orbit as early as 2028. The modules will be launched using a heavy Angara carrier rocket. If this happens, another national station will follow the Chinese one into orbit.
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