Sanctions could imperil space station, Russian space chief says

The Russian Soyuz MS-19 space capsule lies on the ground in a field.
The Russian Soyuz MS-19 space capsule shortly after landing southeast of Zhezkazgan, Kazakhstan, on Wednesday. NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei and cosmonauts Anton Shkaplerov and Pyotr Dubrov returned in the capsule from the International Space Station.
(Alexander Pantiukhin / Roscosmos)

The head of Russia’s space program said Saturday that the future of the International Space Station hangs in the balance after the United States, European Union and Canadian space agencies missed a deadline to meet demands for lifting sanctions on Russian enterprises and hardware.

Dmitry Rogozin told reporters that the Russian space agency, Roscosmos, is preparing a report on the prospects of international cooperation at the space station.

Rogozin implied on Russian state TV that the Western sanctions, some of which predate Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, could disrupt the operation of Russian spacecraft servicing the space station with cargo flights. Russia also sends manned missions to the station.


He emphasized that the Western partners needed the space station and “cannot manage without Russia, because no one but us can deliver fuel to the station.”

Rogozin added that “only the engines of our cargo craft are able to correct the ISS’s orbit, keeping it safe from space debris.”

Rogozin later wrote on his Telegram channel that he received responses from his Western counterparts vowing to promote “further cooperation on the ISS and its operations.”

He reiterated his view that “the restoration of normal relations between partners in the ISS and other joint [space] projects is possible only with the complete and unconditional lifting” of sanctions, which he referred to as illegal.

Space is one of the last remaining areas of cooperation between Moscow and Western nations. U.S.-Russian talks on resuming joint flights to the space station were underway when Russian forces invaded Ukraine, prompting unprecedented sanctions on Russia.

So far the U.S. and Russia are still cooperating in space. A NASA astronaut caught a Russian ride back to Earth on Wednesday after a U.S. record of 355 days at the space station, returning with two cosmonauts.

Mark Vande Hei landed in a Soyuz capsule in Kazakhstan alongside the Roscosmos’ Pyotr Dubrov, who also spent the last year in space, and Anton Shkaplerov.

Wind blew the capsule onto its side following touchdown, and the trio emerged into the late afternoon sun one by one.