Ukraine war: Ice age in space or just Russian threatening gestures?

Published on Sat, 26.02.2022 – 12:14 CET in Politics, covering ESA

War has been raging in Europe since February 24, 2022. Russia has invaded Ukraine. Sanctions have been imposed on Russia in Europe and the US. They are intended to "cut off more than half of Russia's high-tech imports" to make it impossible to modernize Russia's military, U.S. President Joe Biden said in a statement. In addition, Biden predicted, "It will weaken their aerospace industry, including their space program." Translated with (free version)

This was countered by Dimitry Rogozin, the director general of the Russian space agency Roskosmos, with a series of tweets titled "Alzheimer's Sanctions."

Biden says new sanctions will hurt Russia's space program. GOOD. It remains to be seen what the details will be.

1. You want to block our access to radiation-resistant space microelectronics? So you did that quite officially back in 2014. As you note, we are nevertheless continuing to build our own spacecraft. And we will do so by producing the necessary components and equipment in-house.

2. Do you want to ban all countries from launching their spacecraft with the most reliable Russian rockets in the world? You are already doing this and plan to completely destroy the global competitive space market from Jan. 1, 2023, by imposing sanctions on our launchers. We are aware of that. This is not news either. We are ready to act on this as well.

3. You want to destroy our cooperation on the ISS? So you are already doing this by restricting exchanges between our astronaut and astronaut training centers. Or do you want to run the ISS itself? Perhaps President Biden is out of the loop, so explain to him that the station's orbit correction, the avoidance of dangerous approaches to space debris with which your talented businessmen have polluted low-Earth orbit, will be performed exclusively by engines from the Russian Progress freighter.

If you block cooperation with us, who will keep the ISS from falling out of orbit uncontrollably and crashing into American or European territory? There is also the possibility of a 500-ton structure falling on India and China. Do you want to threaten them with this prospect? The ISS does not fly over Russia, so all the risks are yours. Are you ready for them?

Gentlemen, if you plan sanctions, screen those who generate them for Alzheimer's disease. Just in case. To prevent sanctions from falling on your head. And not just figuratively. As long as you're still a partner, I suggest you don't act like an irresponsible gambler and reject the claim of "Alzheimer's sanctions." Friendly advice.

@Rogozin, Dimitry Rogozin, Director General Roskosmos, via Twitter-Thread

Among other things, a look at ESA's ISS tracker shows that Rogozin's claim that the ISS does not fly over Russia is a false statement.

Nasa and ESA confirm further cooperation with Roskosmos

Softer tones, on the other hand, followed from partners. Nasa spokesman Joshua Finch confirmed to via email, for example, "Nasa continues to work with all of its international partners, including the state space enterprise Roskosmos, to ensure the safe operation of the International Space Station."

While the sanctions hit were also intended to affect Russian spaceflight, "no changes are planned to the agency's support for ongoing orbital and ground station operations" and "the new export control measures will continue to enable U.S.-Russian civil space cooperation," the Nasa statement continued.

ESA Director General Josef Aschbacher also confirmed via Twitter on Feb. 25 the continued cooperation with Roscosmos:

Can the ISS really crash?

After the encouragement of Nasa and Esa, the aggression seemed to temporarily disappear after Rogozin's tweets. Nevertheless, it is true that the Russian segment is responsible for the command, navigation and control of the entire complex. Moreover, the space station is in a steady free fall. Russian Progress supply spacecraft regularly reboost the ISS so that it can orbit the Earth at an altitude of about 407 kilometers.

In his tweets, Rogozin also pointed out that without the regular lifts by the Russian Progress freighters, the ISS would naturally leave its orbit. Whether Russia would actually take this step is questionable. After all, there are also Russian cosmonauts on the ISS. If Russia were to take this step, Northrop Grumman's Cygnus spacecraft could help out in raising the station. This departed for the ISS with the CRS NG-17-Mission CRS NG-17 mission on Feb. 19 and docked on schedule at 10:44 CET on Monday, Feb. 21, 2022.

Elon Musk offers help through SpaceX

SpaceX's spacecraft could also take over the tasks of the Progress space freighters. When asked by Rogozin "who would then save the ISS from an uncontrolled deorbit and crashing into the United States or Europe," Elon Musk responded with a SpaceX logo. Musk confirmed his intentions to the demand of a Twitter user.

Regardless of what happens in the Ukraine war, cooperation on the ISS will continue to be guaranteed. The space agencies are in agreement on this. Nevertheless, there are initial restrictions. For example, Roskosmos is discontinuing cooperation with European partners in organizing space launches from the European spaceport in Kourou and is withdrawing its technical personnel, including the consolidated launch team, from French Guiana. This was announced by Rogozin via Twitter on February 26.

If you would like to donate to those affected by the war in Ukraine - ARD has set up a donation account under the keyword "Nothilfe Ukraine":
Aktion Deutschland hilft und Bündnis Entwicklung hilft
Keyword ARD / Nothilfe Ukraine
IBAN: DE53 200 400 600 200 400 600

Header Image Credit: Free Footage
Written by PKl
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