Germany pulls plug on black hole telescope on Russian satellite

Germany on Friday said it has switched off a space telescope making the largest ever map of black holes in the universe on a Russian satellite in view of Moscow’s ongoing war with Ukraine.

The move comes after Germany’s Federal Ministry of Education and Research announced last week that all existing long standing cooperation in science and research with Russia would be immediately halted, Space.com reported.

The black hole-hunting telescope, called eROSITA, was launched in 2019 from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan aboard the Russian-built Spectrum-Roentgen-Gamma satellite.

The mission was jointly funded by the German Aerospace Center (DLR) and Russia’s space agency Roscosmos.

In a statement, DLR on Thursday, confirmed that it would pause all partnerships with Russia, the report said.

“In light of the aggression against Ukraine, the DLR Executive Board decided to stop cooperation on ongoing and planned projects,” the DLR said in the statement.

“No new projects and initiatives with Russian research institutions will take place,” it added.

Meanwhile, London-based company OneWeb has also announced that it was suspending launches of its satellites from the Russia-run Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, after Roscosmos issued conditional demands to launch it, the report said.

Roscosmos had said it would not launch 36 OneWeb internet satellites as planned on Friday unless OneWeb guaranteed that the craft would not be used for military purposes and the UK government agreed to divest itself from OneWeb, which it helped buy out of bankruptcy in 2020.

Russia’s invasion into Ukraine on February 24 has resulted in several economic sanctions. The war has also affected the long standing space cooperation between the US, as well with other European partners.

Roscosmos chief Dimitry Rogozin announced on Friday that his agency will no longer sell rocket engines to US companies, saying: “Let them fly on something else, their broomsticks.”

Roscosmos has also halted launches of Russian-built Soyuz rockets from Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana.

Rogozin has also called into question Russia’s participation in the International Space Station programme.

On Wednesday, Rogozin tweeted out a link to an interview he did with state-run broadcaster Russia Today. In the interview, Rogozin reminded viewers that Russia is responsible for space station navigation, as well as fuel deliveries to the orbiting lab.

“Therefore, we will closely monitor the actions of our American partners and, if they continue to be hostile, we will return to the question of the existence of the International Space Station,” Rogozin said via a translator.

“I would not like such a scenario, because I expect that the Americans will cool down.”

But, NASA on its part has intended the possibility of continued cooperation on the ISS.

“Despite the challenges here on Earth, and they are substantial, NASA is committed to the seven astronauts and cosmonauts onboard the International Space Station,” Bill Nelson, NASA Administrator said on March 1 during a meeting of the NASA Advisory Council, SpaceNews reported.

“NASA continues the working relationship with all our international partners to ensure their safety and the ongoing safe operations of the ISS.”

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