Russia previews its post-ISS space station

ROSS only exists as a model so far.

REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov

Russia has already provided a look at the space station it will make after it leaves the ISS — if only a brief one. Reuters reports the country's Roscosmos space agency has shared a model of the future station (pictured above), nicknamed ROSS by state-controlled media. The orbital facility would launch in two phases, starting with four modules and expanding to six with a service platform. The design would accommodate four people in rotating tours and reportedly offer better monitoring of Earth than Russia gets from the ISS today.

You'll be disappointed if you want more concrete details, however. Roscosmos hasn't provided dates, and state media claim the first phase will launch sometime between 2025 and 2030. The second would arrive between 2030 and 2035. There could be a long interval between Russia's touted ISS exit in 2024 and a functional replacement.

Roscosmos announced its departure from the ISS in July in response to the West's sanctions and other measures following Russia's invasion of Ukraine in February. If the move goes ahead, it will end two decades of a shared, permanent US-Russia presence aboard the station. Russia will still fulfill its obligations until the 2024 cutoff and even has a deal to swap flight seats with the US.

The country has incentives to get its own platform running as quickly as possible. The absence of a station limits Russia's ability to conduct both the previously mentioned Earth observations as well as low-gravity research. There's also the matter of national pride. Russia decommissioned its last self-run station, Mir, in 2001. ROSS would not only help Russia pick up where it left off, but eclipse the country's previous efforts.