The US space agency Nasa wants to resume cooperation with Russia on flights to the International Space Station ISS despite the Ukraine war. For security reasons and to ensure “the US presence in space”, there will be joint flights by NASA astronauts with Russian cosmonauts in Russian Soyuz rockets again from September, Nasa announced on Friday.
Russian astronauts should therefore be able to use the SpaceX rockets flying on behalf of the USA for the first time. “The agreement corresponds to the interests of Russia and the United States,” says the authority in Moscow.
According to Nasa, it is currently planned for two US astronauts to fly in Russian Soyuz rockets on two different space missions. The first of these missions is therefore planned for September. In return, two Russians are to fly in a SpaceX rocket. Astronaut Francisco Rubion and cosmonaut Anna Kikina are the first astronauts to take off from each other’s countries as part of so-called “cruise flights” in September.
US astronauts had already flown into space with Russian Soyuz rockets from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan until 2020. After that, manned ISS flights took off from American soil again.
After Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, the West imposed sanctions on the Russian space agency Roskosmos. However, the collaboration continued on the ISS. The then Roskosmos boss Dmitri Rogozin had threatened in February that Russia could withdraw from the project in the face of Western sanctions and crash the space station on Earth.
On Friday – just before the US announcement of the resumption of cooperation – the Kremlin announced the dismissal of Rogozin, who has been in office since 2018. The new head of the Russian space agency will be Vice Prime Minister Yuri Borisov. He was previously responsible within the government for the military-industrial complex. In Russia, this also includes space travel.
Rogozin, who has presented himself as a staunch nationalist and a keen supporter of Russia’s offensive in Ukraine, should be offered a new job “soon”, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said. However, he did not provide any further details.
The ISS is a joint project of the USA, Canada, Japan, the European Space Agency (ESA) and Russia. It is divided into a Russian and a US segment.
For a while, after discontinuing its space shuttle program, Nasa was entirely dependent on opportunities to fly in Russian Soyuz rockets. In the meantime, however, it can use rockets from the private US space company SpaceX for manned missions to the ISS. (AFP, dpa)