A more weaponised and contested space
However, another reason for the demise of the ISS is that space is fundamentally more contested and is being increasingly weaponised by competing powers.
Rising tensions and geo-political struggles on Earth are also spilling over into space.
While the US is outsourcing its space station capabilities to private partners, rising powers are set on developing their own space stations.
China, which since 2011 has been shut out of projects involving NASA due to the Wolf Amendment, is constructing its own Tiangong space station. The station is planned to be finished by the end of this year.
Following Putin’s invasion of Ukraine and subsequent sanctions, Russia has also confirmed that it intends to leave the ISS programme by 2024 to pursue its own space station which it said would be open to cooperation with "friendly countries".
In September, Russia’s recently-appointed space chief, Yuri Borisov, branded the ISS as “dangerous” and unfit for purpose.
"Technically, the ISS has exceeded all its warranty periods," he said. "An avalanche-like process of equipment failure is beginning, cracks are appearing".
Chinese space efforts have also prompted other space powers, such as India, to accelerate their own plans for national space stations.
Dr Rajeswari Pillai Rajagopalan, Director of the CSST and former Assistant Director of India’s Security Council Secretariat, says there is no doubt that space is becoming more contested.
However, she also says that this increased contention has led to new partnerships and developments that would have been hard to predict a decade ago.
"This competition is also spurring a certain amount of cooperation, which otherwise may not have been seen, for instance, the quad countries [America, Australia, India, and Japan] talking about space competition," Rajagopalan said.
An example is India’s increased cooperation with Japan, the US, and Australia and its leading role in talking about norms, rules, and regulations in space.
"We may be witnessing the emergence of two camps, one US-led and the other led by China and Russia, sort of spheres of influence in space characterised by competition," Stroikos added.
He adds that unlike during the Cold War, today, great space powers aren’t talking to each other and that that’s quite problematic but doesn’t have to mean conflict in space is inevitable.
Bigger issues to resolve in space
While the demise of the ISS is one of the most visible signs that we’re entering a different era of space politics, Stroikos argues that we shouldn’t let it distract us from bigger issues.
"My main concern is how higher tensions will further increase mistrust among great space powers, at a time when cooperation is urgently needed in order to tackle global space challenges, such as space debris, and establishing norms of responsible behaviour," he said.
It remains to be seen whether attempts to resolve tensions and space policy issues will succeed or whether, like the ISS, they’ll come crashing back down to Earth.