PARIS – Moscow says it will extend participation in the International Space Station (ISS) to 2024, after which it plans to disengage three modules from the Russian segment of the orbiting outpost and use them to develop a national space station in low Earth orbit.

The plan, according to a Feb. 24 statement issued by space agency Roscosmos, is to develop a “Russian space base on the basis of separated ISS modules.” The new space station would be configured to incorporate Russia's multipurpose laboratory module, nodal module and scientific power module, leading to “a promising Russian space station that meets the challenges of providing secure access to space.”

The decision, reached during a recent meeting of Russia's Scientific and Technical Council (STC), comes amid increasing tensions with western nations over Moscow's ambitions in eastern Ukraine. In recent months, Roscosmos officials had signaled a potential end to Russian participation in the program in 2020, despite NASA's desire to continue utilizing the ISS to 2024, rather than retiring the $100-billion facility as previously planned.

Outside of NASA, Russia is now the only country among the five ISS partner nations to formally state its intent to continue participating in the program beyond the end of this decade.

During the meeting, the STC also evaluated concepts for advancing Russia's manned space program beyond low Earth orbit over the next two decades. Near-term plans are focused on studying the Moon using robotic spacecraft in lunar orbit, and to send humans to its surface by 2030.

Roscosmos said its manned spaceflight division has approved the basic concept of Russian manned space programs through 2025, and will take into account possible funding changes that could affect the program. Specifics on launch vehicle and spacecraft development for lunar and deep space exploration will be considered during a March meeting of the agency's manned space division.

“Detailed study and final decisions are planned after the synthesis of reports from the heads of Russian rocket and space companies in subsequent meetings of the manned space program division,” Roscosmos said.