Future of International Space Station in doubt due to sanctions on Russia - report

  • 02/03/2022

The attack on Ukraine is happening on the ground in the embattled country as well as in cyberspace - and now the resulting sanctions are having an impact in actual space, too.

TASS, the Russian state-owned news agency, reported future use of the International Space Station (ISS) after 2024 was under threat due to sanctions the international community is placing on Russia in retaliation to its invasion of the neighbouring country.

Roscosmos, the Russian space agency, "has permission from the government to operate the ISS only until 2024".

"And the issue of extending the agreement under the current conditions causes us scepticism," TASS said. "If we do not come to an agreement, this will affect the international manned space program."

With Russia providing guidance, navigation and control for the whole ISS, that could be potentially dangerous. Russian ships have also helped the ISS boost its orbit to avoid space junk in the past.

The US expects the ISS to be in service until 2030.

The latest warning comes just days after Roscosmos director general Dimitry Rogozin ranted on social media that the US was behaving like an "irresponsible gamer" of Russia's invasion.

He then suggested that US President Joe Biden had Alzheimer's disease.

"If you block cooperation with us, who will save the ISS from an uncontrolled deorbit and crashing into the United States or Europe?," Rogozin wrote.

"There is also the chance of impact of a 500-ton structure on India and China. Do you want to threaten them with such a prospect? The ISS does not fly over Russia, so all the risks are yours. Are you ready for them?

"Gentlemen, when you plan sanctions, be sure to check who is thinking them up and make sure they're not suffering from Alzheimer's disease - just in case, and I'm not speaking figuratively."

As well as potential problems with the ISS, the launch of the ExoMars rover has been indefinitely delayed following the invasion of Ukraine.

The European Space Agency (ESA) has said it is fully implementing the sanctions imposed on Russia by its 22 member states, with the 2022 launch now in danger.

"We are assessing the consequences on each of our ongoing programmes conducted in cooperation with the Russian state space agency Roscosmos and align our decisions to the decisions of our Member States in close coordination with industrial and international partners (in particular with NASA on the International Space Station)," it said in a statement.

"Regarding the ExoMars programme continuation, the sanctions and the wider context make a launch in 2022 very unlikely."

The ExoMars rover is a joint project between the ESA and Roscosmos, with the Russian agency providing the launch vehicle and lander to get the rover safely onto Mars.

Originally scheduled for 2020, the solar-powered rover will search the Red Planet for evidence of life on Mars.

Roscosmos has also suspended cooperation with its European partners, putting an immediate end to Soyuz rocket launches from French Guiana.

It's also recalling 87 Russian workers from the South American space port.