Affected by the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, the Western world led by the United States has imposed strict sanctions on Russia in all aspects. Such sanctions have spread to outer space, and Russia has also introduced countermeasures. Because the space has always been the “special zone” of the bad relations between the United States and Europe and Russia, both sides in manned spaceflight, carrier rocket development and commercial space launch, satellite manufacturing and other aspects have maintained close cooperation, so this round of space sanctions and counter-sanctions will have a greater impact.
Russia-ukraine Conflict Sparks’ Space War ‘
Space has long been one of the few areas where Russia and the US have grudgingly co-operated, with frequent co-operation on international Space Station missions, space launch services and the import and export of space components. However, cooperation in outer space has been strained since the Crimea incident in 2014. The United States has strengthened export control on Russia’s aerospace industry and banned the export and re-export of high-tech items and military items to Russia. Suspending official space cooperation with Russia except for the International Space Station; The purchase of Russian-made rocket engines was banned, and so on. However, in general, the United States has imposed multiple rounds of superimposed sanctions on Russia while still leaving exceptions and exemptions in the space sector.
The conflict between Russia and Ukraine has made matters worse. On February 24th the White House held a press conference to announce details of sanctions against Russia, including one targeting the Russian aerospace industry. While the U.S. did not elaborate on what specific sanctions were included, Russia nonetheless made an initial response. The head of Roscosmos, Dmitry Rogozin, has raised the possibility of Russia pulling out of the iss partnership in public remarks, saying that without Russian support the station could be “derailed without control”. On March 3, the Russian government announced that it would stop supplying RD-180 rocket engines to the United States.
Roscosmos has also been an important partner of esa for many years and has been involved in some of Europe’s most high-profile space exploration activities. Affected by the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, a number of cooperation between Russia and Europe in the space field was suspended. The first wave of eu sanctions, announced on February 25th, included a ban on the supply of high-tech products to Russia for use in space or aviation. ExoMars, a mission to Mars scheduled for 2022, has also fallen victim to the confrontation. In response, Russia announced the suspension of cooperation with Europe at the Guyana cosmodrome and promptly withdrew all Russian experts from the space center. The European Space Agency had planned to launch two Soyuz rockets from the space center in 2022 to carry the Galileo navigation satellite into orbit. Roscosmos also suspended cooperation with the German Aerospace Center (DLR), and two telescopes (eROSITA) on the Spektr-RG Russian-German High Energy Astrophysical Observatory, operating at The Sun-Earth Lagrange L2 point, were shut down. Russia also calls for the British government spin off its stake in the “one network” company, and require the company to provide services for foreign troops to stop, or Russia’s baikonur space launch would refuse to launch the court has been installed into the “alliance – 2.1 b” fairing of 36 “one network” satellite, “one network” then announced to stop cooperation with Russia’s launch.
Sanctions end up hurting both sides
A tit-for-tat battle in outer space between Russia and America and Europe would inevitably lead to mutual loss. For The Russian side, space launch services have been an important part of its commercial space sector. In recent years, Russia’s foreign space launch service market has been occupied by commercial launch service providers represented by SpaceX, but the number of launches provided by Russia each year still accounts for about 50% of the country’s annual launch missions. In the past five years, the total number of Russia’s annual launches and the number of foreign launch services have decreased year by year, with the most obvious decline in the proportion of launch missions carried out for the United States, while the proportion of missions launched for Europe has increased year by year, and Europe has gradually become Russia’s main launch service customer. The suspension of cooperation will deal another blow to Russia’s launch business. At the same time, the West refused to provide Russia with high-tech products, will have a certain impact on Russia’s space work. Although The Russian side said it was carrying out import substitution work, but it is still difficult to smooth the transition in a short time.
For the United States, the fate of the International Space Station would first be affected by Russian countermeasures in space. With a total mass of 420 tons, the International Space Station is mainly composed of Russian modules and American modules, and its operation and maintenance basically requires cooperation between the two sides. Especially after the retirement of the US space shuttle in 2011, all parties completely rely on The Russian Soyuz spacecraft to transport astronauts to the station, and the Russian side also uses the Progress spacecraft to undertake most of the supply tasks. Although the United States can now use its own spacecraft to board the International Space Station, the role of Russia is still significant. Even now, amid tensions, America’s National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is still negotiating a new “crew swap” agreement with Russia’s space agency. According to this kind of agreement, American cosmonauts can ride Russian “Soyuz”, Russian cosmonauts can ride American space Exploration Technology company “Dragon” spacecraft, free of charge to each other. Russia has threatened to “go it alone” after “separating” the Russian module from the American one, a move that, while questionable, is technically sound, especially given the recent biden administration’s pledge to try to keep the International Space Station in service beyond 2030.
Russia’s suspension of delivery of RD-180 and RD-181 rocket engines is also unacceptable to the US. The rD-180 is used on ULA’s Cosmodrome 5 rocket, and the RD-181 on Northrop Grumman’s Antares rocket. Russia has delivered 122 RD-180 engines to the United States, of which 98 have been launched and 24 are in reserve. Twenty-six RD-181s have been delivered, of which 22 are in use.
The US has been trying to reduce its reliance on Russian-made rocket engines, but implementing them has not been easy. ULA plans to ditch the Cosmos-5 in favour of a new Vulcan rocket family that will use engines built by Jeff Bezos’s commercial space company Blue Origin, But delays in the delivery of blue Origin’s BE-4 engine have delayed vulcan’s 2021 launch. If the launch continues to be delayed until the Cosmos-5 is retired, ULA will be left with no arrows. On Feb. 19, Northrop Grumman launched a Cygnus spacecraft on a supply mission to the International Space Station, powered by an RD-181 engine. Now Russia has decided not only to stop supplying rD-180 engines, but also to refuse to provide technical maintenance for the remaining engines that have been delivered.
As for Europe, its spat with Russia could hurt not only some of its satellite launches but also its space exploration plans. The ExoMars mission, for example, includes a Rover called Rosalind Franklin, the first European-designed rover to land on Mars, which will use a six-foot drill to detect signs of life below the surface. The probe was originally scheduled to launch in 2018, but was delayed due to persistent problems with its landing parachute, and is now scheduled to blast off on a Proton-M carrier rocket from The Baikonur Cosmodrome in September 2022. As well as supplying Proton for the ExoMars mission, Russia has built the Kazachok landing platform for the mission and supplied several scientific instruments for the probe. Now that esa has suspended its involvement in the project, ExoMars’ future is in doubt.