Remember when Russia had planned on having an active moon base in 2027-2032? How about the time when they wanted to work together with the US in making that happen? Well plans change, money gets tight, and friendships grow uneasy. Thankfully everyone still works as intended on the ISS – as a group from mankind not individual countries.
The plan was that when Russia had completed their portion of the ISS (~2015) then they would begin to concentrate on building a new rocket which would get them to the moon. While no one has said that this was no longer the plan, they do have a different plan – their own space station located in a geometrically advantageous position, enabling them to expand the sector of earth coverage and see 90 percent of their territory and the Arctic shelf, whereas from the ISS they are able to see less than 5 percent.
They still intend to complete their portion of the ISS and fulfill any and all obligations to the international community & ISS. They will however have to give up developing the Russian segment of the International Space Station as supposedly some of the modules once headed for the ISS will be used instead on the new station.
So – starting in 2017 Russia will begin deploying a high-latitude orbital space station. Originally intended to be decommissioned in 2020 - now extended to 2024, Russia’s agreement as a member of the ISS team ceases at that time. Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin, who oversees the Russian space industry, has said that Russia does not intend to extend the operation of the ISS 2024.
Oddly another function to be tackled by the new station is the preparation of lunar spacecraft. It would seem they are making plans for the moon but seemingly in stages: first spacecraft will be delivered to the station and then proceed to the Moon.
Never mind that Russia currently spends 1/6th of what NASA does on the ISS, should they undertake this project they will be forced to foot the entire bill. If you recall one of the reasons Mir was decommissioned was the expense. The initial phase of deploying the space station will involve the re-tasking of modules & spacecraft already being developed for the Russian wing of the ISS. This should help to avoid any costs, at least initially.
Does this have anything to do with the top secret Russian orbital weapon that NORAD is tracking? Well, no. In fact considering that as the secret US X-37b spaceplane (basically the robot minishuttle ) returns from its latest spy mission is a tad ludicrous. To be honest this item that is currently occupying space could be simply a test of robotic repairs & refueling such as Canada and the US have already completed (actually the US is currently undertaking the RRM 2 – Robotic Refueling Mission pt 2). While certainly we should always maintain a cautious nature, we should also refrain from being driven by fears and paranoia!