Rogozin Takes Aim at Space Cooperation with U.S., Europe, Including ISS

Rogozin Takes Aim at Space Cooperation with U.S., Europe, Including ISS

The head of Russia’s space agency took aim at cooperation with the United States, the United Kingdom, and Europe today both in words and actions. Not only did he threaten to prevent Friday’s launch of 36 OneWeb communications satellites unless the UK government divests itself as a OneWeb shareholder, but hinted that Russia may reconsider cooperating on the International Space Station unless the Americans “cool down.”

Roscosmos Director General Dmitry Rogozin. Credit: Twitter profile photo, which he changed on February 28, 2022 to this military uniform instead of a business suit.

In another day of blistering tweets and a video published on YouTube by Russia’s RT media outlet, Rogozin accused Europe of trying to destroy Russia’s rocket and space industry, Ukrainian hackers of trying to take out Russian space flight control centers, and demanded that the UK government end its partial ownership of OneWeb and guarantee the satellites will not be used for military purposes or Russia will not launch them.

Russian rockets have already launched more than 400 OneWeb satellites.

Rogozin is Director General of the State Space Corporation Roscosmos, Russia’s equivalent of NASA and ESA. He was Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister for defense and aerospace under Putin in 2014 when Russia annexed Crimea and consequently was personally sanctioned by the United States and Europe.

Sanctions were also levied against parts of the Russian aerospace industry. NASA was dependent on Russia for ferrying crews back and forth to the ISS because the U.S. space shuttle had been terminated in 2011 and the replacement commercial crew systems were not yet ready. Rogozin famously tweeted that if the United States was going to impose sanctions, it could use a trampoline instead to get its astronauts to space.

His vituperative remarks apparently were not official Russian policy and NASA is still using Soyuz for transporting astronauts. Mark Vande Hei is scheduled to return to Earth on Soyuz MS-19 on March 30 after 355 days in space along with two Russian cosmonauts. They will land on the steppes of Kazakhstan as usual.

Rogozin was essentially demoted to head Roscosmos in 2018.

Today’s geopolitical situation is much different from 2014 and while some of what he is saying still may be bluster, there already has been a shift in space relationships.

Russia has suspended launches of its Soyuz rocket and withdrawn support personnel from Arianespace’s launch site in Kourou, French Guiana because of the sanctions imposed by Europe after its invasion of Ukraine last week.

Today’s threats against the OneWeb launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome on Friday are an escalation. The launch is scheduled for 5:41 pm EST (22:41 UTC, or 3:41 am Saturday, March 5, at the launch site).

OneWeb is majority owned by the UK government and India’s Bharti Global mobile telecommunications company. Other investors are Eutelsat, SoftBank, Hughes (an EchoStar company), and Hanwha. It has launched 422 of the 648 satellites it needs for its global satellite communications system. They are launched 34 or 36 at a time on Russian Soyuz rockets through a partnership between Roscosmos and Arianespace, Europe’s France-based launch services company.

The 13 OneWeb launches to date, all on Soyuz rockets, have been from Kourou, Baikonur, or Russia’s Vostochny launch site in Siberia. Russia leases the Baikonur Cosmodrome from Kazakhstan, so it and Vostochny are Russian facilities.

Today, Rogozin tweeted Russia will not proceed with Friday’s OneWeb launch unless the UK government divests its share in OneWeb and guarantees the satellites will not be used for military purposes.

The UK Minister for Business & Energy, Kwasi Kwarteng, tweeted back that the UK is not selling its shares, prompting a retort from Rogozin that he’d give the UK two days to think about it.  [Translations from Russian via Google Translate.]

“Roskosmos has warned OneWeb that if it does not provide a guarantee that its satellites will not be used for military purposes before 21:30 Moscow time on March 4, then the Soyuz-2.1b rocket will be removed from the launch.”

“The British authorities must withdraw from the shareholders of OneWeb to launch satellites. Otherwise, there will be no launches.”


OK. I give you two days to think. There will be no guarantees of non-military use of the system – there will be no system.”

Rogozin had many other comments to make via Twitter and also gave an interview to Russia’s RT (Russia Today) media outlet that has been blocked by many Western countries because it is controlled by the Russian government, but as of the moment is still on YouTube.

The YouTube video provides a simultaneous translation in English where Rogozin addresses reports about alleged Ukrainian hacking of Russian space flight control centers and satellites, European sanctions, and the future of cooperation on ISS. [ is providing this transcription of what the interpreter says, but cannot confirm its accuracy.]

Many are asking us now about how much the attack by Ukrainian hackers has affected the Roscosmos flight control systems and our orbital group.

I want to say this is fake. There were indeed such attempts to break into the flight control systems, but our security system automatically repelled them. And secondly, I want to warn those who continue to do this that this is a crime that should be severely punished. The removal of a space group of any country from duty is an act of war. Such an act can lead to disorientation of space apparatus and they can fall to the ground. I think this is a crime against humanity.

We will search for those who organized these attacks and we will pass all the relevant information to law enforcement agencies to initiate criminal cases.

Sanctions against the Russian space program were introduced a long time ago back in 2014. They existed before as well. The plan was to completely reset our capabilities for creating spacecraft, but we switched from imports to domestic suppliers and after losing a couple of years, which of course was painful, we were able to build our own devices and we’ll continue to make them.

Now the Europeans have repeated these sanctions. It is quite obvious that their intention is to bring down the Russian rocket and space industry. We consider this a war declared against us, therefore we will have to respond just as harshly because cooperation in space does not allow such actions.

In fact, sanctions against Roscosmos will not stop Roscosmos because it is difficult to stop us. We have many other customers who do not obey American sanctions. We will now cooperate with them absolutely openly. But the Western coalition has just uncontrollably smashing international scientific projects [sic].

Americans are pragmatic people. They want to maintain cooperation with Russia within the International Space Station, despite the numerous sanctions. Why? Because it is impossible to manage the space station without us. We’re responsible for its navigation and fuel delivery. I’m not talking about the interdependence of all control systems.

Therefore we will closely monitor the actions of our American partners and if they continue to be hostile we will return to the question of the existence of the International Space Station.

I would not like such a scenario because I expect that the Americans will cool down.

Russia’s TASS news agency published a longer summary that quoted him as saying not that he expects Americans to “cool down,” but “to pour cold Borjomi on their hot heads.” Borjomi is mineral water from the Borjomi Gorge of Georgia. Russia invaded Georgia in 2008.

NASA insists that at the working level nothing has changed in terms of day-to-day ISS operations and the U.S.-Russian-European-Japanese-Candian partnership has weathered such storms in the past, perhaps a reference to the invasion of Georgia and Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea.

Rogozin is correct that it would be extremely difficult to operate ISS if Russia withdraws from the partnership, but it would hurt Russia as much as the other partners. Russia is getting ready to launch its next crew to ISS on March 18 and last year it resumed launching space tourists to ISS, another revenue-raising enterprise.

Then again, suspending Soyuz launches from Kourou and threatening not to launch OneWeb from Baikonur likely will deal a long-lasting blow to Russia’s commercial space launch business with Western customers. The satellites are already on their Soyuz-2.1b rocket at the launch pad. Five more OneWeb launches were planned.

In retaliation for the sanctions, Roscosmos also announced it will no longer cooperate with NASA on the Venera-D mission to Venus planned for 2029, another action that will hurt Russia more than its cooperative partner since NASA is planning to launch two of its own Venus missions anyway.

NASA told that four of its ongoing space science missions have Russian instruments: Mars Science Laboratory (the Curiosity rover), Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, Mars Odyssey, and Wind. Rogozin has made no mention of them so far.

For its part, the European Space Agency says it is “very unlikely” its ExoMars rover will launch in September as part of the Russian-European robotic mission to land on Mars. The rover, Rosalind Frankin, includes a NASA mass spectrometer and other hardware. Russia developed the landing platform for the rover. The combination, ExoMars 2022, was scheduled to launch in September and the European team was supposed to go to Baikonur this week to begin integrating the spacecraft onto its Russian Proton rocket, but all of that has been cancelled now. The rover is still in Turin, Italy, where it was manufactured.

Separately, Germany’s Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics sent a command to its eROSITA instrument on Russia’s Spektr-RG x-ray space telescope putting it into safe mode, meaning it is no longer operational. Roscosmos is threatening to sue.

By far the most significant space cooperation is the ISS. NASA officials have been insisting all is well, but that was before Rogozin’s comments today.

At a meeting of the NASA Advisory Council yesterday, Wayne Hale, chairman of the Human Exploration and Operations Committee, noted that having a contingency plan is a good idea. NASA Administrator Bill Nelson opened the NAC meeting by reiterating NASA’s commitment to the safe and continuous operations of the ISS and its seven crew members — two Russians, four Americans, and one German.

Wayne Hale speaking at the virtual NASA Advisory Council meeting March 1, 2022. Screengrab.

Hale, a former NASA flight director and former space shuttle program manager, offered some words of wisdom.

And I can tell you here in Houston when I talk to my friends that are still at work in the ISS control center they are very much operating normally and we certainly hope that stays the same.

However, this old flight director feels that the situation indicates that NASA should consider assembling a tiger team to prepare contingency plans in case that situation changes. It just seems prudent.

Hopefully it doesn’t come to pass, but then we’ve always prepared for contingencies if they were serious enough.

User Comments has the right (but not the obligation) to monitor the comments and to remove any materials it deems inappropriate.  We do not post comments that include links to other websites since we have no control over that content nor can we verify the security of such links.