In space, Russia is losing allies. Here’s the current situation

For decades, everything noteworthy in space was directly linked to the US. But this may not be the case for long. Certainly not.

For much of the twenty-first century, after the space shuttle mission was terminated in 2011, Russia and the United States collaborated on several flights to the ISS (International Space Station). While the development of SpaceX offered the European Space Agency, NASA, and other organizations with an alternate manner of transporting products, supplies, and personnel to space, Russia and the United States (and its allies) continued to collaborate in substantial ways.

 

Until this year.

With the West under enormous pressure to enforce embargoes, changing geopolitical alignments on Earth are starting to mirror policies in the ultimate frontier.

Whether essential or unfortunate, here is where Russia as well as its space program are as its alliances with the West shift.

Russia has severed ties with NASA, the ESA (European Space Agency), and others.

Any attempt to define geopolitical lines of change during periods of radical upheaval is necessarily shaky because history is constantly reinterpreted in the future. However, most science enthusiasts believe that ties between NASA and Roscosmos, Russia’s space agency, deteriorated when Russia conducted an anti-satellite missile trial in November 2021. Thousands of pieces of supersonic space debris were launched into trajectories, endangering the lives of 7 astronauts aboard the ISS (International Space Station), who got forced to seek refuge and modify the station’s orbit.

Dmitry Rogozin, the head of Roscosmos, seemed to intimidate to detach the Russian thruster unit from the station in the days or weeks after Russia’s assault on Ukraine, removing the ISS’ major way of regularly propelling itself to avoid re-entering the atmosphere as well as burning up. There were also fears that when the very last Russian cosmonauts got back, an American astronaut would be left behind (who was set to return and come back with them on the Soyuz module). This was going to be exceedingly unusual, and it would have left an indelible mark on the history of space collaborations.

Fortunately, neither of these things happened, but a deterioration of ties has subsequently become unavoidable: Russia indicated earlier this month that it would halt collaboration on the International Space Station. This news was also confirmed by a tweet from Rogozin, Roscosmos Director, who stated that Russia would cut links with the ISS and other space projects until the country’s sanctions were lifted.

 

Russia’s space program has ended its support for military objectives in the United States.

Rogozin said that “the restoration of regular relations between the stakeholders at the ISS (International Space Station) and other projects is conceivable only with the full and unconditional withdrawal of illegal sanctions,” arguing that the sanctions were designed to “destroy [the] Russian economy and throw [its] citizens into despair and starvation, to bring [Russia] to its knees.”

This extended beyond Russia’s collaboration with NASA. This was also true of Roscosmos’ collaborations with the ESA (European Space Agency) as well as the Canadian Space Agency. In March, the European Space Agency (ESA) cut ties with Roscosmos, citing the ExoMars rover mission as an example. Following Russia’s refusal to deploy the former’s orbital satellites, OneWeb, a British satellite company, switched to SpaceX’s services.

To be clear, OneWeb’s journey aboard Russia’s rockets was not canceled only on the basis of principle or due to Western embargoes. OneWeb was required to certify that its 36 satellites would not be utilized for military reasons by Russia. The firm declined, leaving Russia with only one option: to act in its reasonable self-interest. After all, the United States would never launch satellites that were utilized against its strategic interests.

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