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International space collaboration under threat – TechCrunch

This week, the biggest story in the space industry is understandably the biggest story in world affairs: Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Of course, the most immediate and devastating effects of Russian actions are those felt by local people in the besieged country, but there are already signs that this could change the way the international space community works forever, and in particular it is testing the longstanding collaboration between the US and Russia.

Through a series of tweets, the head of Russia’s space agency, Dmitry Rogozin, was quick to respond to the US-imposed sanctions, suggesting that joint management of the International Space Station could be jeopardized. Rogozin went so far as to suggest that without Russian support, the space station could theoretically fall on the US, Europe, China, or India (it never crosses Russia).

Non-military space cooperation between the two countries is unaffected by the sanctions currently imposed by the US, but Rogozin, and by extension Roskosmos, apparently do not see the measures as entirely detached from official cooperation.

Photo credit: NASA

A direct consequence of the ongoing Russian aggression against Ukraine is that it will no longer launch rockets from the European Space Agency’s spaceport in French Guiana. Roscosmos says this is its decision in response to sanctions against Russia, and that it will immediately withdraw any personnel on the ground supporting its Soyuz launches.

A number of international payloads were scheduled to be launched on Soyuz rockets over the next few months, with April at the earliest. At the very least, these will likely have to find new rides unless the decision is somehow reversed. Arianespace could fill in the gaps with its own launchers, so it’s unclear whether Russian rockets would ever launch from ESA’s facility again even if tensions de-escalated.

KOUROU, FRENCH GUYANA DECEMBER 16, 2019: A mobile service tower for a Soyuz ST rocket booster at the Guiana Space Center. Carrying the European Space Agency’s CHEOPS (CHaracterising ExOPlanets Satellite) telescope, a COSMO SkyMed satellite, an EyeSat satellite and two small satellites, the rocket is scheduled to be launched on December 17, 2019 at 11:54 a.m. Moscow time. Soyuz rockets will be launched from the Guiana Space Center as part of a collaborative program between Roscomos and the European Space Agency. Sergei Savostyanov/TASS (Photo by Sergei SavostyanovTASS via Getty Images)

Commercial crew more important than ever

NASA’s decision to enlist the help of private companies to transport astronauts to and from the ISS now seems more prescient than ever. Elon Musk tweeted a cheeky response to Rogozin’s thinly veiled threats about the aforementioned ISS, suggesting that SpaceX could step in and play an even bigger role in the day-to-day operations of the station should Russia disappear from the picture.

NASA could theoretically get even more help once Boeing’s commercial astronaut flight services become operational, though these have encountered significant delays late in the program.

SpaceX Crew Dragon approaching the ISS.

Photo credit: SpaceX

International space collaboration under threat – TechCrunch Source link International space collaboration under threat – TechCrunch

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