Russia space agency suggests sanctions could lead to International Space Station crashing into US or Europe

Andrew Griffin
Friday 25 February 2022 17:43
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<p>A Russian Soyuz spacecraft docked with the Russian segment of the International Space Station in December 2021</p>

A Russian Soyuz spacecraft docked with the Russian segment of the International Space Station in December 2021

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Any sanctions that hit the Russian space programme could lead the International Space Station to fall into the US or Europe, its head has warned.

Without the help of the Russian space agency, Roscosmos, Europe and the US might not be able to safely operate the floating laboratory or prevent it from dropping to the ground, said Dmitry Rogozin, the director general of Roscosmos.

Mr Rogozin’s warnings came in a number of tweets posted after Joe Biden suggested that US sanctions on Russia in response to its invasion of Ukraine could include measures intended to damage the Russian space industry.

After pointing out that the US and others continue to depend on Russian rockets for launching satellites and carrying astronauts to the International Space Station, Mr Rogozin asked whether the US intended to “destroy our cooperation on the ISS”.

The ISS has served as a home to both Nasa astronauts and Roscosmos cosmonauts, as well as representatives from other bodies such as the European Space Agency.

Mr Rogozin pointed out that the ISS’s safety has also depended on help from the Russian space agency, which has used its spacecraft to correct the orbit of the station. He seemingly referenced an incident earlier this year in which Russian boosters were used to steer the lab out of the way of “space garbage”, and blamed the US for helping pollute near-Earth orbit with debris.

He then suggested the consequences of any breakdown in cooperation could be even worse – given that those boosters are also used to keep the ISS in the air.

“If you block cooperation with us, who will save the ISS from an uncontrolled deorbit and fall into the United States or Europe?” he wrote.

“There is also the option of dropping a 500-ton structure to 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?”

He suggested that the US should be careful to “prevent your sanctions from falling on your head. And not only in a figurative sense”.

Mr Rogozin has a history of flowery and sometimes aggressive statements in relation to possible developments in space.

For now, Nasa and the European Space Agency have both committed to continue to work with Russia on the ISS as well as other projects such as the ExoMars missions to scan the red planet for possible life.

The ESA has however suggested that policy could change if the situation in Ukraine continues to get more violent.

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