Expedition 39 Soyuz Rollout
April 30, 2014

New Sanctions Could Damage Relationship Between US, Russian Space Programs

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online

In the wake of new sanctions levied against his country by the US, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin has taken to social media to suggest that American astronauts should consider exploring alternative methods of transportation to the International Space Station.

According to Alan Boyle of NBC News, Rogozin took to his Russian-language Twitter account to tweet the following: “After analyzing the sanctions against our space industry, I suggest to the USA to bring their astronauts to the International Space Station using a trampoline.”

Currently, the Russian space program has deals with NASA and the European Space Agency to transport crew members and satellites to the orbiting laboratory. However, Rogozin’s agency is among those whose assets are scheduled to be frozen under the terms of the new sanctions – sanctions that the Deputy Prime Minister told AFP reporters would have unintended consequences.

“If their aim is to deliver a blow to Russia's rocket-building sector, then by default, they would be exposing their astronauts on the ISS,” the news agency quotes the Deputy Prime Minister as saying from the Crimean city of Simferopol (formerly part of the Ukraine) on Tuesday. He went on to say that he was “sick and tired” of the sanctions that the US failed to realize that they would “hit them like a boomerang,” Boyle noted.

However, according to Reuters reporter Gabriela Baczynska, analysts don’t believe that Moscow will make good on threats to halt shuttle service to the space station – a service that NASA pays more than $60 million per person for. That money, Baczynska added, infuses much-needed financing to the country’s cash-strapped space industry.

Due to sanctions announced earlier this month, NASA is prohibited from contacting the Russian government, but Reuters said that operation of the $100 billion multinational ISS is currently exempt from such sanctions. That said, Sergei Oznobishchev, director of Russia’s Institute for Strategic Assessments, told the news agency that several other collaborative space projects could be affected.

“Depending on the scale and scope of the sanctions, at stake could be up to five commercial satellite launches contracted by foreign clients by the end of this year at the Khrunichev Center, a state-run Russian spacecraft maker,” Baczynska said. Khrunichev Center spokesman Alexander Bobrenyov assured Reuters that the facility was “ready to carry out all the commercial launches we have planned for this year and we hope that will be the case.”

On April 2, NASA issued a statement announcing that it would suspend several contracts with Russia due to the ongoing conflict in the Ukraine. The following day, Space Policy Institute Director Ivan Moiseyev countered that the move was “too harsh,” that it would have a global backlash on international space research, and that it could damage possible future partnerships between the two agencies.

Since the Space Shuttle program was retired in 2011, the US has depended on Russia in order to maintain a presence in space. To rectify the situation, NASA has been cultivating partnerships with multiple private-sector firms with the hope that they will soon be able to lift-off from a domestic location again in the near future. One of those companies, SpaceX, is currently scheduled to have a manned space launch system ready as early as 2015.