Russia continues to downgrade its role in the space industry, moving away from international customers to which it has long supplied space resources because President Vladimir Putin has refused to back down from the attack on Ukraine.
Since Russia began its invasion last week, the head of Russia’s Roscosmos space agency Dmitry Rogozin has refused to launch payloads from a British satellite company and stopped supplying Russian-made rocket engines to American customers and threatened to sever ties with its International Space Station partners, including NASA.
The most sensitive current space policy issue is the International Space Station.
For more than 20 years, NASA and Russia have worked together to build and maintain the laboratory in orbit 200 miles above Earth. The first modules were American and Russian. The first two astronauts to enter the space station when the lights were turned on were an American and Russian cosmonaut together, an intentional choice of STS-88 mission commander Robert Cabana.
When the space shuttle program ended, the United States lost its ride to space for American astronauts. He started buying seats on Russia’s Soyuz spacecraft for more than $80 million for nine years until SpaceX began launching astronauts under NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.
Since Elon Musk’s company began launching Americans from Florida in May 2020, NASA had bought fewer seats from Russia and was negotiating for a cosmonaut to launch on SpaceX’s Crew Dragon when the invasion of Ukraine began.
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Rogozin threatened to withdraw from the ISS altogether and ended in-orbit science activities between cosmonauts and their international astronaut counterparts.
University of Central Florida space policy expert Roger Handberg said Russia has lost the upper hand.
“They don’t get any money because a lot of their space program had sold seats for the Soyuz missions in the United States,” Handberg said. “The Russians lost influence, as you say, over the United States because they provided access. Now we have independent access.
In April, NASA astronauts Mark Vande Hei are expected to undock from the space station with two cosmonauts and return to Earth aboard a Russian spacecraft landing in Kazakhstan. He could be the last American to fly on a Russian vehicle if the relationship deteriorates.
Second, the United States, Europe and Japan are working to extend the life of the ISS to 2030, but Russia only committed to 2024, and those negotiations were also in progress. Classes.
If Russia gives up by 2030, that’s where things get complicated.
“Does that mean we have to dismantle and remove their modules? That’s kind of a complicated question. We’re not there yet,” Handberg said.
Since the end of the shuttle program, the ISS has relied on Russian spacecraft to lift the space station and move it around in debris avoidance maneuvers.
However, the Northrop Grumman Cygnus cargo spacecraft might be able to take on the job. A Cygnus recently docked with the ISS will perform America’s first in-orbit reboost test, potentially offering an alternative option.
If Russia chooses to take immediate action and sever ties with its partners on the International Space Station, it’s unclear how that would work. The ISS was not designed to be divided.
“A lot of things are connected. So do we no longer have the right to use the Russian modules on this space station? Or vice versa, we don’t allow them to use our modules,” Handberg said.
“In the confined circumstances they find themselves in, it gets quite bizarre.”
Handberg thinks Russia is locked in the ISS until 2024, but there is still uncertainty with Putin.
New York Post