US and Europe say space cooperation with Russia not yet affected by Ukraine crisis

WASHINGTON — US and European officials said Feb. 23 that space cooperation with Russia was unaffected even as that country continues to threaten a full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

At a space diplomacy roundtable hosted by George Washington University’s Space Policy Institute, US State Department officials said cooperation between NASA and Russia’s Roscosmos space agency on the Space Station international community had not been affected, at least until now, by the Ukrainian crisis.

“As the world follows political activities related to Russia and Ukraine, NASA continues to conduct research safely aboard the ISS and cooperation continues with Roscosmos and our other international partners,” said said Valda Vikmanis-Keller, director of the Office for Outer Space Affairs at the State Department.

She said there were no plans to change major upcoming activities, including the launch of a Soyuz spacecraft with three Russian cosmonauts on March 18, followed by the March 30 return of the Soyuz spacecraft currently on the station. with two Russian cosmonauts and NASA astronaut Mark Vande. He I. NASA astronaut training in Russia continues, with up to five astronauts scheduled for Russia in mid-March, while three Russian cosmonauts train at NASA’s Johnson Space Center.

“Despite what is happening geopolitically, safe and secure operations and cooperation on the ISS continue,” she said.

Later in the panel, Sylvie Espinasse, head of the European Space Agency’s Washington office, said European cooperation with Russia in space also remained unchanged. “We are closely monitoring what is happening, but for now the activities are proceeding according to plan,” she said.

This includes not only cooperation on the ISS, but also between ESA and Roscosmos on the ExoMars mission, which is scheduled for launch in late September on a Proton rocket from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. The ExoMars launch campaign will officially begin next month with the arrival of European personnel in Baikonur to begin integration of the Mars Lander spacecraft.

Nicolas Maubert, space adviser at the French embassy in Washington, added that the French space agency CNES still has its Moscow office open and is planning an event there this week to mark the agency’s 60th anniversary.

Dmitry Rogozin, director general of Roscosmos, said in a tweet from February 23 that he has a good working relationship with NASA, even criticizing the US government in general. “We greatly value our professional relationship with NASA, but as a Russian and a Russian citizen, I am completely unhappy with the sometimes openly hostile policy of the United States towards my country,” he wrote.

This included, he said in another tweet, sanctions imposed on Russian space companies by the United States. “Who had the idea to announce US sanctions a year ago against our main space companies responsible for international cooperation on the ISS? I will answer you myself: the American government did it.

Rogozin was referring to the Commerce Department’s decision in late 2020 to add the Russian Central Research Institute for Machine Building, or TsNIIMash, and the Progress Rocket and Space Center to the so-called end-user list. military, restricting US companies’ exports to them. . The two companies were among more than 100 Chinese and Russian companies added to this list. Rogozin himself is also being sanctioned for his role as Russia’s deputy prime minister in 2014, during the previous Russia-Ukraine conflict.

“From a Russian military space perspective, our focus for several years has been on using sanctions or export controls to try to slow down and delay their space programs,” said Eric Desautels, director of the Office of Emerging Security Challenges and Defense Policy at the Department of State’s Office of Arms Control, Verification, and Compliance, during the panel discussion. This includes Russian efforts to develop “counterspace systems” that threaten US space assets.

“That’s why we’ve been focused on slowing down and postponing that kind of cooperation to make sure they don’t get parts from the United States or American allies to help them build these systems,” did he declare.