The head of Russia’s space agency said Saturday he would submit a proposal to the Russian government to end cooperation on the International Space Station program.
Dimitry Rogozin, director general of Roscosmos, the state-owned company that oversees Russia’s space program, wrote on his social media account Telegram that sanctions imposed by Western nations following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine threatened cooperation in orbit.
“I believe that restoring normal relations between partners in the International Space Station and other joint projects is possible only with the full and unconditional lifting of illegal sanctions,” Mr. Rogozin said.
Mr. Rogozin did not provide details, including a timeline for when he would like Russia to end its involvement in the orbiting lab.
The space station has for years been hailed as an example of Moscow-Washington cooperation in a post-Cold War world, and Mr. Rogozin’s recent suggestions about its future have served as an indication of the seriousness of tensions between the West and Russia over Moscow’s invasion in Ukraine on February 24.
However, NASA officials have carefully sidestepped comments by Mr. Rogozin that Russia might pull out of the space station partnership, saying operations on the space station are continuing as normal.
On Wednesday, a NASA astronaut, Mark Vande Hei, and two Russian colleagues returned to Earth. Their return pod landed in Kazakhstan and was met by Russian and NASA personnel at the landing site, who worked together to safely retrieve the astronauts.
The agreement between NASA, Russia and the other nations participating in the space station program runs until 2024. The United States wants to extend it to 2030. Kathy Lueders, NASA’s assistant administrator for space operations, recently said talks are ongoing.
“All of our international partners, including Roscosmos, are making progress toward station expansion by 2030,” she said during a press conference Thursday of the upcoming launch of four astronauts to the space station on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.
She added, “We all understand the importance of this continued partnership, even in really, really, really difficult times.”
NASA is also working on other deals with Russia. Ms Lueders said NASA is still awaiting Russian review of an agreement that would allow some Russian astronauts to ride on future American rocket launches, while some NASA astronauts would continue to launch on Russia’s Soyuz rocket.
Unlike NASA, which buys seats for its astronauts on Soyuz after the space shuttles retire, this would essentially be a barter without financial payments.
“We’re both still working on this together,” said Dana Weigel, deputy director of the space station program at NASA.
A crew of seven, led by NASA astronaut Tom Marshburn, including three Russians, is currently on the space station.