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Elon Musk says SpaceX will save ISS after Russia threatens to drop it from orbit

The International Space Station (ISS) is seen on a monitor after the Soyuz MS-20 space craft undocked from the ISS in December last year  (AFP/Getty)
The International Space Station (ISS) is seen on a monitor after the Soyuz MS-20 space craft undocked from the ISS in December last year (AFP/Getty)

Elon Musk has said SpaceX would save the International Space Station (ISS) from an “uncontrolled deorbit” after the head of Russia’s space agency warned it could crash into the US or Europe.

Roscosmos chief Dmitry Rogozin claimed that it was Russian expertise that was keeping the ISS in orbit, and suggested that sanctions against Russia for its invasion of Ukraine could lead to a catastrophe.

“If you block cooperation with us, who will save the ISS from an uncontrolled deorbit and fall into the United States and Europe?” the space chief tweeted on Friday.

“There is also the option of dropping a 500-ton structure to India and China. Do you want to threaten them with such a prospect? The ISS does not fly over Russia, so all the risks are yours. Are you ready for them?”

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The SpaceX boss responded by tweeting that SpaceX would save the ISS from falling to Earth.

The ISS has been in orbit for more than 21 years, occupied by a multinational crew from 15 different countries.

Its current occupants include four Nasa astronauts, two Russian cosmonauts, and Matthias Maurer from the European Space Agency.

Following Russia’s military action against Ukraine last week, Nasa said it would “make every effort to continue as before … [despite] disagreements between our countries”.

The ISS is due to be decommissioned in 2030, with current plans involving a controlled deorbit over the Pacific Ocean.

If Russia’s involvement in the orbiting laboratory was to end before then, Mr Musk hinted that the Russian Segment could be replaced by a SpaceX Dragon that could provide reboost capability and altitude control.

Over the weekend, Mr Musk confirmed that SpaceX was also assisting Ukraine by delivering high-speed internet from its Starlink satellite constellation, following a request from Ukraine’s vice prime minister.

“Starlink service is now active in Ukraine,” he tweeted on Saturday. “More terminals en route.”