Russia’s space ambitions grow despite diplomatic tensions with the West

Russia’s space ambitions grow despite diplomatic tensions with the West

Russia’s space ambitions grow despite diplomatic tensions with the West

Moscow said it will leave the International Space Station “after 2024” amid political tension with the West. Analysts have warned that the move could lead to the disruption of Russian manned flights. Moscow will now focus on building its own space hub.

Confirmation of the long-discussed move comes as ties between the Kremlin and the West dissolve over Moscow’s military intervention in Ukraine and several rounds of devastating sanctions against Russia, including its space sector.

The Russian space administration, Roscosmos, told the German Aerospace Center that it will no longer take part in “joint space experiments” on the International Space Station.

Earlier this year, Roscosmos suspended Russian Soyuz rocket launches from the European spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana, withdrawing about a hundred of its workers.

Space experts have said that Russia’s departure from the International Space Station would severely affect the country’s space sector and deal a major blow to its manned flight program, a major source of Russian pride.

“Of course, we will fulfill all our obligations to our partners, but the decision to leave this station after 2024 has been made,” Vladimir Putin Yury Borisov, the new head of the Russian space agency Roscosmos, told President Vladimir Putin, according to a Kremlin account of their meeting.

“I think at this point we will start putting together a Russian orbital station,” added Borisov, calling it the main “priority” of the domestic space program.

United States surprised

“It’s an unfortunate development, given the critical scientific work done at the ISS, the valuable professional collaboration our space agencies have had over the years,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said, adding that Washington was surprised. from the announcement.

In a statement to the AFP, NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said the agency “has not been informed of the decisions of any of the partners, although we are continuing to build future capabilities to ensure our increased presence in low Earth orbit. “.

The ISS is expected to be retired after 2024, although the US space agency NASA says it can remain operational until at least 2030.

So far, space exploration has been one of the few areas where cooperation between Russia and the United States and its allies has not been interrupted by tensions over Ukraine and elsewhere.

The ISS was launched in 1998 at a time of hope for US-Russia cooperation following their Space Race competition during the Cold War.

Russia is heavily reliant on imports of everything from manufacturing equipment to consumer goods, and the effects of Western sanctions are expected to devastate the country’s economy in the long run.

Space expert Vadim Lukashevich said space science cannot thrive in a heavily sanctioned country.

“If the ISS ceases to exist in 2024, we will have nowhere to fly,” Lukashevich told AFP. “At stake is the very preservation of manned flights in Russia, the birthplace of cosmonautics.”

Technical insulation

Pointing to Russia’s growing scientific and technological isolation, Lukashevich said authorities couldn’t plan more than several months in advance and added that even if Russia built an orbiting station, it would be a throwback to the 1980s.

“It will be archaic, like an old woman’s apartment, with a push-button telephone and a turntable,” she said.

Space analyst Vitaly Yegorov struck a similar note, saying it was nearly impossible to build a new orbiting station from scratch in just a few years.

Yegorov also said that Russia’s departure from the ISS means that Moscow may have to suspend its manned flight program “for several years” or even “indefinitely”.

The move could also see Russia abandon its main spaceport, Baikonur, which it is leasing from Kazakhstan, Yegorov said.

Russian Soyuz rockets were the only way to reach the International Space Station until SpaceX, run by billionaire Elon Musk, debuted a capsule in 2020.

Setbacks, scandals

The Soviet space program can boast a number of key achievements, including the sending of the first man into space in 1961 and the launch of the first satellite four years earlier.

But experts say Roscosmos is now a shadow of itself and has suffered a number of setbacks in recent years, including corruption scandals and the loss of numerous satellites and other spacecraft.

Borisov, appointed in mid-July, replaced Dmitry Rogozin, a firebrand politician known for his bombastic statements.

Rogozin had previously warned that without Moscow’s cooperation, the ISS could deorbit and fall into the territory of the United States or Europe.

Mars on Ice Project?

Another victim is the Rosalind Franklin rover, whose launch as part of the joint Russian-European mission ExoMars had already been postponed from 2020 due to the Covid pandemic.

The rover, designed to drill through Mars in search of signs of life, is now “very unlikely” to launch this year, the European Space Agency said.

ESA’s rover was to be launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan by a Russian rocket, then brought to Martian soil by the Russian Kazachok lander.

Taking Rosalind Franklin, named after an English chemist and DNA pioneer, into space without Russian help would require massive overhauls – and the launch window only comes every two years.

“It’s heartbreaking for the science and scientists who have built ties over the years and invested years of work,” said Isabelle Sourbes-Verger, a space policy specialist at the French National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS).

(Wthe news)

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