Russia threatens to quit International Space Station over sanctions
9th June 2021

Russia warns America it will withdraw from the International Space Station unless US sanctions are lifted

  • Russia has been working jointly with America on the ISS project since 1998 
  • NASA wants to keep going until at least 2030, but Moscow is threatening to quit 
  • Russia’s space chief said country could quit by 2025 in protest over sanctions 
  • Sanctions have stopped Russia getting hold of a specific type of microchip that it needs to launch satellites, Rogozin said 

Russia will quit the International Space Station by 2025 unless the US lifts sanctions that prevent it from launching satellites, the head of its space programme says.

Dmitry Rogozin, director of the Roscosmos space agency, said Russia has a number of semi-finished satellites it would like to launch – but cannot because they lack one specific microchip that the country cannot import due to sanctions.

Unless the sanctions are lifted, Rogozin added, then Russia will quit the ISS – a joint project with the US that the two countries have been working on since 1998 and which NASA wants to maintain until at least 2030.

Moscow and Washington had established the ISS project as a sign of strengthening ties following the Cold War and it had been immune to the earthly squabbles of its two parent countries – at least until now.

Russia will quit the International Space Station (pictured) by 2025 unless the US lifts sanctions which are preventing the country from launching satellites 

Dmitry Rogozin, head of Russian space agency Roscosmos, said he has several semi-finished satellites that he cannot launch because they lack a specific microchip hit by sanctions

Rogozin made the remark to ministers on Tuesday, amid rapidly deteriorating relations between the US and Russia and ahead of summit between Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin scheduled for June 16 aimed at resolving some of the issues.

But it is hardly the first time that Rogozin has threatened to quit the ISS.

In April Rogozin had announced Russia’s decision to quit the project by 2025, saying the country planned to launch its own station by 2030.

‘We are beginning negotiations with our Nasa partners, we are formalising them now,’ Rogozin had said at the time. 

‘It does not mean that the station will be scrapped and dumped into the ocean immediately after 2025. We will simply hand over the responsibility for our segment to the partners.’

Russia has been under sanctions by the US since its annexation of Crimea in 2014, a move that western governments have condemned as an illegal occupation.

Biden recently added to those sanctions for what he described as attempts to interfere in US elections, state-sponsored hacking, and other issues.

Relations soured even further when Biden agreed with the description of Putin as ‘a killer’, to which the Russian president retorted it ‘takes one to known one’. 

Amid the deterioration in relations, Russia has been increasingly turning towards China for support – including in space.

The two countries recently announced a joint project to build a base on the moon, saying it will ‘promote the peaceful exploration and use of space for all of mankind’. 

The project was announced after Russia rejected a US offer to join European partners in establishing their own base on the moon. 

Biden and Putin are expected to discuss a number of topics when they meet next week in Geneva, among them arms control, human rights issues, and the annexation of Crimea. It is not clear whether cooperation in space will be on the agenda.

Both sides have been playing down the prospect of significant progress being made.

Launched in 1998, the ISS is a multinational project and comprises two segments, a Russian one and another one used by the United States and other space agencies.

The project has relied heavily on Russian rocket power to ferry astronauts and cargo into space, and on Russian-engineered modules to expand the station.

Between 2011 and last year, the ISS was also a major money-earner for Roscosmos after the US retired the Space Shuttle programme.

The US and other national space agencies paid an estimated $4billion to secure seats and space on board Russian Soyuz rockets during that time, which were the only craft capable of reaching it.

Now, however, the US has begun making trips in Elon Musk’s SpaceX rockets instead.

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