MOSCOW — (AP) — The head of Russia’s space program said Saturday 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 respond to Russian demands for the lifting of sanctions against Russian companies and equipment.
Dmitry Rogozin, the head of Roscosmos, told reporters that the state agency is preparing a report on prospects for international cooperation at the station, which will be presented to federal authorities “after Roscosmos completes its analysis.”
Rogozin hinted on Russian state television that Western sanctions, some of which predate ongoing Russian military operations in Ukraine, could disrupt the operation of Russian spacecraft serving the ISS with cargo flights. Russia also sends manned missions to the space station.
He stressed that Western partners need the space station and “cannot do without Russia, because no one but us can deliver fuel to the station.”
Rogozin added that “only the engines of our cargo ship are capable of correcting the orbit of the ISS, protecting it from space debris.”
Later on Saturday, Rogozin wrote on his Telegram channel that he had received responses from his Western counterparts pledging to promote “further cooperation on the ISS and its operations”.
He reaffirmed that “the restoration of normal relations between the partners of the ISS and other joint (space) projects is only possible with the complete and unconditional lifting” of the sanctions, which he described as illegal .
Space is one of the latest areas of cooperation between Moscow and Western nations. US-Russian negotiations on resuming joint flights to the space station were underway when Russia launched its military operation in Ukraine last month, leading to unprecedented sanctions against Russian state-linked entities.
So far, the United States and Russia are still cooperating in space. A NASA astronaut caught a Russian return to Earth on Wednesday after an American record 355 days on the International Space Station, returning with two cosmonauts.
Mark Vande Hei landed in a Soyuz capsule in Kazakhstan alongside Pyotr Dubrov of the Russian Space Agency, who also spent the last year in space, and Anton Shkaplerov. The wind tipped the capsule on its side after landing, and the trio emerged one by one into the late afternoon sun.
Vande Hei’s return followed the usual procedures. A small team of NASA doctors and other personnel were on hand for the landing and immediately returned home with the 55-year-old astronaut.
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