What is the ISS minimal crew? Can we keep the ISS in orbit without anyone in it? Does it need a minimum member of people on board in order to maintain it?
The possibility of an empty ISS was most recently raised after the Soyuz launch failure in 2018. It would be problematic, but perhaps not insurmountable. Mission control can control a lot from the ground, and it would even be possible to send a Progress capsule to automatically dock and perform an orbital boost, but there’s still a lot on the ISS that wants human maintenance. An air leak or a radio breakdown, both of which have happened to the ISS before, would be serious issues with nobody on board.
On the other hand most of the dirt comes from the crew too.
It is something NASA, and presumably Roscosmos too, have made plans for. An exact timeframe the ISS could be safely decrewed seems hard to come by, perhaps because even NASA aren’t really sure. There would be considered extra work and equipment needed for the recrew mission.
Now that there are two spacecraft (Soyuz and Crew Dragon) that can take the crew to the ISS, with two more (Starliner and Orion) expected to fly humans soon, an ISS decree due to launch vehicle problems are much less likely. But a decree due to other situations could still occur.
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