'Illegal' sanctions a threat to the International Space Station, says Dmitry Rogozin

Dmitry Rogozin, head of Russia's Roscosmos
"The purpose of the sanctions... is to plunge our people into despair and hunger." Photo credit: Getty Images

The head of Russia's space agency has said relationships between International Space Station (ISS) partners won't be normalised again until "illegal" sanctions placed on his country over the war it is waging on Ukraine are lifted.

Dmitry Rogozin, head of Roscosmos, took to Twitter to address the issue after letters from NASA, the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) and the European Space Agency (ESA) refused to support the lifting of the sanctions.

Rogozin also seemed to indicate that Roscosmos was considering ending cooperation with its ISS partners, with proposals to be sent to the Russian government "in the near future".

Currently the country is signed up to support the ISS until 2024, although NASA and other partners want this extended to 2030 until the ageing space station can be replaced.

Rogozin said the state of affairs was "unacceptable".

"Sanctions from the US, Canada, the European Union and Japan are aimed at blocking financial, economic and production activities of our high-tech enterprises," he wrote.

"The purpose of the sanctions is to kill the Russian economy, plunge our people into despair and hunger, and bring our country to its knees.

"It is clear that they will not be able to do this, but the intentions are clear. 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."

He also blasted NASA and the CSA for sending back letters that were "almost carbon-copied".

In those letters, NASA administrator Bill Nelson and CSA head Lisa Campbell both said their organisations were working "to facilitate continued cooperation and operation of the ISS".

The head of the ESA, Josef Aschbacher, forwarded Rogozin's demands to the 28 members states as the matters were their individual responsibilities, a move which drew derision from the head of Russia's space agency.

"Aschbacher acted as a postman, confirming that he does not solve such issues, and therefore forwarded my appeal to the EU member states," said Rogozin.

"That is, we are invited to wait until the bureaucracies of all 28 EU countries deign to read the letter of Roscosmos. By this time, either the donkey will die, or the ISS will die by its own death."

Regardless, it seems clear Rogozin is losing patience and that could end up being a major issue for the ISS.

"Specific proposals of Roscosmos on the timing of the completion of cooperation within the ISS with the space agencies of the United States, Canada, the European Union and Japan will be reported to the leadership of our country in the near future," he concluded on Twitter.

With Russia looking after the guidance, navigation and control for the whole of the ISS that could bring further doubts as to its safety and future.

Cargo ships from Russia regularly boost the orbit of the ISS when space debris has the potential to crash into the station.

"If you block cooperation with us, who will save the ISS from an uncontrolled deorbit and crashing into the United States or Europe?," Rogozin said when sanctions were first announced.

"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?"

Rogozin's bombast has previously seen him accuse US President Joe Biden of having Alzheimer's and get into a Twitter fight with former NASA astronaut Scott Kelly.