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Functioning of the ISS after US sanctions

  Apr 20, 2022

Functioning of the ISS after US sanctions

Q Why is it in News ?

A Western sanctions against Russia could cause the International Space Station (ISS) to crash, the head of Russian space agency Roscosmos has warned.

Q What is the ISS?

  • The ISS was launched in 1998 as part of joint efforts by the U.S., Russia, Japan, Canada and Europe.
  • The idea of a space station originated in the 1984 State of the Union address by former U.S. President Ronald Reagan.
  • The space station was assembled over many years, and it operates in low-earth orbit.
  • Since its inception, it has served as a laboratory suspended in space and has aided multiple scientific and technological developments.
  • The ISS was originally built to operate for 15 years.

Q Why was ISS launched?

  • A space station permits quantum leaps in research in science, communications, and in metals and lifesaving medicines which could be manufactured only in space.
  • ISS has consistently maintained human presence for the past 21 years, providing astronauts with sophisticated technologies for scientific research.

Q What is Russia’s role in maintaining the ISS?

  • The ISS is built with the co-operation of scientists from five international space agencies — NASA of the U.S., Roscosmos of Russia, JAXA of Japan, Canadian Space Agency and the European Space Agency.
  • Each agency has a role to play and a share in the upkeep of the ISS.
  • Both in terms of expense and effort, it is not a feat that a single country can support.
  • Russia’s part in the collaboration is the module responsible for making course corrections to the orbit of the ISS.
  • They also ferry astronauts to the ISS from the Earth and back.
  • Until SpaceX’s dragon spacecraft came into the picture the Russian spacecrafts were the only way of reaching the ISS and returning.

Q Why does the orbit of the ISS need to be corrected?

  • Due to its enormous weight and the ensuing drag, the ISS tends to sink from its orbit at a height of about 250 miles above the Earth.
  • It has to be pushed up to its original line of motion every now and then.
  • This is rather routine, even for smaller satellites.
  • Approximately once a month this effort has to be made.
  • The other reason for altering the path of the ISS is to avoid its collision with space debris, which can damage the station.

 Q What is the extent of effort and expense involved in this?

  • Manoeuvring the ISS is expensive.
  • In a year, 7-8 tonnes of fuel may need to be spent, with each manoeuvre costing nearly a tonne of fuel.
  • If a manoeuvre is put off for later, the ISS may sink a little more and the delayed operation would cost more as a larger correction needs to be made.

Q What are its risks of crashing ?

  • The orbit of the ISS does not fly over the Russian territory mostly.
  • Places that are closer to the equator run a greater risk of it falling in their domain.
  • The orbit is at about 50 degrees and so most probably, the ISS will fall in that level.
  • But this is only a probability, as it can move or disintegrate.
  • But in case of this eventuality, people in the ISS will be brought back, modules can be detached thereby making it much smaller which will ensure that it disintegrates before touching the earth.