Russia to suspend ISS cooperation until sanctions are lifted

4 Apr 2022

Image: © SciePro/Stock.adobe.com

The invasion of Ukraine and subsequent sanctions on Russia have already had knock-on effects for the ESA’s ExoMars mission.

The head of Russian space agency Roscosmos said that cooperation between partners at the International Space Station (ISS) would only be possible if sanctions against Russia are lifted.

Dmitry Rogozin made the announcement on Twitter on Saturday (2 April), adding that the sanctions aim to “kill the Russian economy and plunge our people into despair and hunger, to get our country on its knees”.

Future Human

“That’s why I believe that the restoration of normal relations between partners in the International Space Station and other joint projects is possible only with the complete and unconditional lifting of illegal sanctions.”

The announcement came less than a week after a clear sign of cooperation aboard the ISS.

On 29 March, Roscosmos cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov formally handed command of the station to NASA astronaut Thomas Marshburn, saying that the ISS is a “symbol of friendship” and the future of space exploration. “On orbit we are one crew,” he added.

The following day, Shkaplerov and fellow cosmonaut Pyotr Dubrov returned to Earth in a Soyuz capsule alongside NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei.

Knock-on effects

Rogozin said proposals on when to end ISS cooperation with other space agencies will soon be reported to Russian authorities.

His announcement is the latest knock-on effect for the space sector from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and subsequent sanctions.

In February, Roscosmos said that it would withdraw its workforce from Kourou, the French Guiana spaceport, following the sanctions imposed on Russia by the EU.

The Guiana Space Centre is the site of the European Space Agency (ESA) Soyuz launches, using the pioneering Russian spacecraft that has long been a staple of space exploration programmes.

This led to the ESA suspending the ExoMars mission, which was originally scheduled for launch later this year. The agency has also commissioned a study of how to move the mission forward without Russian involvement.

Alice Pannier, head of Ifri’s geopolitics of technology programme, recently told SiliconRepublic.com that the ongoing crisis is likely to have a structural impact within the space and technology sectors as both Russia and western countries look for alternative providers.

“This could lead to a tightening of Russia-China links and Europe-US links, which could create new dependencies for both Europe and Russia, on the US and China respectively,” she said.

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Jenny Darmody is the deputy editor of Silicon Republic

editorial@siliconrepublic.com