Ukraine invasion: Russia stalls Soyuz rocket launches over sanctions

Amid increased sanctions imposed on Russia over its military invasion into Ukraine, the Russian space agency has announced suspension of Soyuz rocket launches, the media reported.

Roscosmos has said that it is halting all cooperation with European partners on space programmes, reported.

Russia’s Soyuz rockets are used by European launch provider Arianespace to launch satellites from the Guiana Space Center near Kourou, French Guiana in South America.

The recent Soyuz rocket to launch from Guiana Space Center lifted off on February 10 carrying 34 OneWeb internet satellites.

Russia has been working closely with US space agency NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) on various space projects.

However, following invasion into Ukraine, Russia has been met with several sanctions threatening the long standing space partnerships.

“In response to EU sanctions against our enterprises, Roscosmos is suspending cooperation with European partners in organising space launches from the Kourou cosmodrome and withdrawing its personnel, including the consolidated launch crew, from French Guiana,” Roscosmos chief Dmitry Rogozin said in a Twitter statement on Saturday, according to a translation from Russian.

According to a second Twitter statement from Roscosmos, Russia is also recalling 87 Russian workers from French Guiana who support Soyuz rocket launches for Roscosmos and the Russian companies NPO Lavochkin, Progress RCC and TsENKI, the report said.

Roscosmos’ announcement will also likely delay Arianespace’s next Soyuz launch of Galileo navigation satellites into orbit for the European Union’s Galileo constellation. The satellitesA were scheduled for early April, the report said.

But, Russia’s decision to halt Soyuz launches with Europe will not interrupt any services for users of the Galileo satellites or of the EU’s Copernicus Earth observation satellite programme, Thierry Breton, the European Commissioner for Space, was quoted as saying in a statement.

“I confirm that this decision has no consequences on the continuity and quality of the Galileo and Copernicus services,” Breton said.

“Nor does this decision put the continued development of these infrastructures at risk.”

Arianespace, based in France, also uses its own European Ariane 5 heavy-lift rocket and Vega rocket for smaller launches from French Guiana.

Breton noted that the EU and its member states are “ready to act decisively” in order to “protect these critical infrastructures in case of aggression”, and that it will “continue to develop Ariane 6 and Vega C to ensure Europe’s strategic autonomy in the area of launchers”.

The ESA has been working closely with Russia’s space programme to launch the European ExoMars rover mission to Mars later this year.

Further, Rogozin also announced on Saturday that it was “inappropriate” for any continued participation of the US in the Russian Venus mission. It was slated to launch sometime in the 2020s, the report said.

Earlier, NASA had asserted that civil cooperation between the US and Russia in space, particularly with regard to the International Space Station (ISS), will continue.


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