Deputy head of the Russian Space Agency Vitaly Davydov said earlier this week that a major new large-scale space station would be built to replace the world's sole civilian space station in 2015.
But Nikolai Sevastyanov, the president of the Energia Russian Rocket and Space Corporation, said the ISS should be spared the same fate of Russia's Mir orbital station, which was crashed into the Pacific Ocean in March 2001.
"We propose using the ISS as a permanent artificial satellite for the Earth instead of sinking it [in the Ocean]," Sevastyanov told the fifth international aerospace congress in Moscow.
Sevastyanov said this option would allow the international space community to continue pursuing the tasks that the ISS is currently performing.
"Today the ISS performs the following functions: it is an international space port, it carries out fundamental research and experiments, tests new space technologies in the interests of industry on Earth, researches long piloted inter-planetary flights, and assembles and services inter-orbital complexes," Sevastyanov said.
The Energia chief also said his corporation had plans to create a multi-purpose laboratory module on the ISS, construction of which began in 1998, within the next five years.
"Using this module, we will switch to digital technologies. In the 10 years of its operation, the module will recoup invested funds," Sevastyanov said. "In addition, there are plans to build energy and research modules on the ISS."
Sevastyanov also said Russia intended to use a new inter-orbital craft from 2009 to dock cargoes to the ISS and reduce considerably the cost of cargo deliveries to the space station.