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Russian Orbital Station, ROS

Special report by Anatoly Zak; Editor: Alain Chabot

In early 2020, Russian engineers completed a proposal for a modular Earth-orbiting outpost, which could succeed the International Space Station, ISS, and provide the nation's space program with a back-up destination after Moscow's lunar ambitions had withered due to lack of funding. The planned Earth-orbiting facility became known as the Russian Orbital Station, ROS, and was assigned the industrial designation 615GK.

ros Core module Node module Airlock Soyuz Commercial module progress

The architecture of the Russian Orbital Station, ROS, circa 2020. Subscribers: click names for access to detailed info on the contemporary status of each element. New readers: click "INSIDER CONTENT" to subscribe.

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OPSEK: Earliest concept of the Russian successor to the ISS

In April 2001, the Russians, still shaken by the politcally painful demise of the Mir space station, were facing a row with NASA over its objection to flying wealthy tourists to the ISS in order to obtain extra cash during the most difficult years of the country's economic transition. In the midst of the brouhaha, the head of the Russian space agency, Yuri Koptev, made the first public statement about a small Russian space station as a successor to the ISS.


VShOS: Russian orbital station gets new impetus

On December 15, 2014, answering questions from journalists at the end of an annual press-conference, the head of Roskosmos, Oleg Ostapenko said that the agency had been considering options for the development of the High-Latitude Orbital Station, also known by its Russian abbreviation as VShOS.


ROS: Engineers begin looking at the station concept

In 2017, RKK Energia, the nation's premier manned spacecraft contractor, reported that it had delivered the Technical Assignment for the future station to TsNIIMash, the main expert and certification center of the Russian space industry in October 2016. TsNIIMash was expected to review the specifications and submit them to the leadership at the Roskosmos State Corporation.


2020: Concept evolves (INSIDER CONTENT)

In early 2020, Russian engineers completed a proposal for a modular Earth-orbiting outpost, which could succeed the International Space Station, ISS, and provide the nation's space program with a back-up destination in case Moscow's lunar ambitions wither due to lack of funding or political will.


2021: Building the station from scratch (INSIDER CONTENT)

In a major strategy U-turn, the Russian industry favored the construction of a brand-new space base in the Earth's orbit instead of separating its newest modules from the International Space Station, ISS, at the end of its life. The latest plan proposed building the future outpost in a near-polar orbit which would cover far more of the Russian territory and other high-latitude areas than did the ISS.


ROS concept in 2022 (INSIDER CONTENT)

In 2022, financial and technical uncertainty continued surrounding Roskosmos' evolving long-term plans for piloted missions to the post-ISS space station.


UPDATE, Jan. 22: ROS project in 2023 (INSIDER CONTENT)

In early 2023, Russian engineers drafted a new scenario and a timeline for the construction of the post-ISS space station, while the prelimnary design for the project was completed by the end of the year.


UPDATE, July 2: 2024: Preliminary design completed (INSIDER CONTENT)

On April 2, 2024, Roskosmos approved the preliminary design of ROS and, on July 2, industry leaders signed the General Schedule for the development of the outpost, including the manufacturing of station's modules, the flight testing of the station's crew transport ship and launch vehicles, as well as the construction of the ground infrastructure.


Russia mulls new station design to compete in commercial race (INSIDER CONTENT)

In the 2020 study, Russian strategists provided a set of fresh justifications for the construction of a new Russian Earth-orbiting outpost, drafted its new possible architecture and technical capabilities as well as outlined different scenarios for its deployment in orbit. The plan also revisited various concepts of transport vehicles for the re-supply of the future station.


Rationale for the ROS concept (INSIDER CONTENT)

Proponents of the future Russian outpost to succeed the International Space Station push forward some really exotic, if not bizarre, ideas to justify the concept along with more traditional uses.


ROS assembly sequence (INSIDER CONTENT)

In the Spring of 2021, the Russian space industry drafted a new assembly schedule for the ROSS complex. The latest scenario aimed at building a brand-new outpost in parallel with the winding down ISS operations but in a different orbit.


NEW, March 19: ROS robotics (INSIDER CONTENT)

The developers of the future Russian Space Station, ROS, want multiple robotic systems on the exterior of the outpost to help with assembly and maintenance work. If it goes beyond the drawing board, it would be the first attempt in Russia to build robots for the piloted space program since the Buran reusable shuttle project which was to carry a large remotely controlled arm.





Multi-purpose Laboratory Module, MLM

The original concept of the Russian Orbital Station depended on the launch of the Multi-Purpose Laboratory module, MLM Nauka (science). It was launched to the International Space Station, ISS, in 2021. The Nauka was to serve as the "border-line" module, connecting future Russian station to the Russian Segment of ISS.


New Prichal Node Module, UM (INSIDER CONTENT)

In all proposed ROS architectures, the so-called "Uzlovoi Module" or Node Module played a role of the hub of the future Russian station, thus making the life span of the new outpost essentially unlimited, as long as new modules replace the old ones.


Converting Science and Power Module, NEM (INSIDER CONTENT)

Plans for building a future orbiting outpost from scratch instead of separating its newest modules from the retiring International Space Station, ISS, depends on converting the yet-to-be-launched Science and Power Module, NEM, into the core of the future station. However, this strategy posed a number of major technical and financial obstacles.


Gyroscopic Module (INSIDER CONTENT)

Eyeing a possible life for the Russian Segment after the deorbiting of the International Space Station, ISS, engineers at RKK Energia proposed a new module designed to give the post-ISS station the capability to stir itself in space without use of propellant.


Airlock Module, ShM (INSIDER CONTENT)

While planning for the expansion of the Russian segment of the International Space Station, ISS, in the second half of 2000s, engineers at RKK Energia conceived a new Airlock Module, ShM, which would replace a Docking Compartment, SO, currently used for spacewalks. The new design also evolved to support the orbital assembly of deep-space vehicles.


Expansion modules (INSIDER CONTENT)

In the course of early studies and the preliminary design of the ROS project, in the early 2020s, engineers at RKK Energia formulated the concept of a new-generation module which would be used for the expansion of the post-ISS space station during the second phase of its assembly.


NEW, Nov. 16: Commercial module (INSIDER CONTENT)

In 2023, RKK Energia, the prime Russian contractor in the International Space Station, ISS, revived the old but never-funded concept of a commercial space module, this time, as part of the future Russian Orbital Station, ROS, rather than the ISS.


An inflatable module, TM

Half a century after Aleksei Leonov floated into open space through the inflatable airlock, the company that built his spacecraft, has jump-started work on multi-layered inflatable structures. In its annual report for 2012, RKK Energia said that the new project might pave the way for a new generation of space station modules, interplanetary spacecraft and planetary bases.


NEW, Nov. 21: Progress ROS (INSIDER CONTENT)

In order to support its own station after the retirement of the ISS, Roskosmos will need a cargo supply system. Because none of the proposed new-generation ships could be developed in time for cargo deliveries, the existing Progress MS variant would have to be adapted for the Russian Orbital Station, ROS.

All articles and illustrations inside this section by Anatoly Zak unless stated otherwise.

All rights reserved

Last update: July 2, 2024

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