Russia raises tension with Europe and the United States into space


The international tension over the invasion of Ukraine rises to space. The director of the Russian Space Agency Roscosmos, Dmitry Rogozin, has announced the cancellation of all space missions and releases sets that they had agreed with their European and American counterparts.

“If you block cooperation with us, Who will save the ISS from an uncontrolled de-orbit and fall into the United States or Europe?writes

It has also stated that, “in response to the sanctions imposed by Europe against our companies”, it has also ordered the withdrawal of all its scientific and technical personnel from the Kourou space base in French Guiana. At the moment, according to the agency’s estimates, there are about 87 Russian citizens who are preparing their imminent departure of the base that, until now, had become a symbol of international cooperation.

The decision comes just one day after the countries assured that, at least in space, they were going to maintain peaceful cooperation. On Friday, in fact, the Russian, American and European space agencies had assured that they would maintain their joint mission on the International Space Station (ISS), which currently houses four American, two Russian and one German astronauts. At first, after the first hours of the escalation of the conflict in Ukraine, spokespersons for both agencies issued statements assuring that they “value professional relations” with the other parties and that they were willing to continue collaborating in a peaceful manner. “Despite the current conflict, civil space cooperation remains a bridge“, wrote on Friday the director of the European Space Agency (ESA), Josef Aschbacher.

Hours later, shortly after the announcement of the sanctions imposed by Europe and the United States on Russia, the director of Rocosmos published an extensive thread on Twitter denouncing the situation. In one of the most incendiary parts of his speech, Rogozin asks US President Joe Biden what will happen if his astronauts, who currently command the mission, are expelled from the International Space Station: “If you block cooperation with U.S, Who will save the ISS from an uncontrolled exit from orbit and will fall in the United States or Europe? There is also the option to ship a 500 ton frame to India and China. Do you want to threaten them with such a prospect? The ISS does not fly over Russia, so all risks are yours.”

missions at risk

The head of the Russian space agency, trained in military strategy and policy, has also taken advantage of the outburst to denounce that for years the United States ‘sabotages’ the development of the Russian space program and that Russia is still ready to launch its own spacecraft autonomously (and is even considering building its own permanent space base). “Are they planning to destroy the space competition? We are aware. This is also not news. We are ready to act here too“, writes the leader of Roscosmos. In this sense, Rogozin defines the measures imposed as “Alzheimer’s sanctions” and asks his hitherto partners to review their decisions to “prevent their sanctions from falling on their heads, and not just figuratively“.

At the moment, neither the agencies of the United States nor Europe have responded directly to these comments. Sources close to the space sector assure that canceling several joint missions is being considered. Or at least expel Russia from these projects. As reported by the Russian media ‘Sputnik’, Rogozin would have already announced the cancellation of the Venera-D mission, in collaboration with NASA, to explore the atmosphere of Venus. Among the missions that could also be in danger after this crisis, the project exomarsa joint effort between Europe and Russia that was scheduled to take off for Mars at the end of the year.

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It is still not clear how Western space agencies will respond to this growing crisis. From the highest European space institution, Aschbacher acknowledges being “sad and worried” about the escalation of war in Ukraine and assures that “ESA member states [entre los que también forma parte España] we will make the necessary decisions” to respond to this conflict. Although, according to the director of the European agency, “until further notice” Europe will offer its support to the ongoing missions.



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