Russia to Deny US Access to International Space Station over Ukraine Sanctions
Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin announced Tuesday that Russia has denied a NASA request for continued co-habitation of the International Space Station beyond 2020, citing sanctions on Russia over the ongoing crisis in Ukraine as a reason the Russia government wants to distance itself from the US space program.
Reuters reports Rogozin announced that the United States would not be able to use the International Space Station beyond 2020, when the mutual agreement to use it was set to expire, though NASA had requested an extension to 2024. The money used to keep it open would go to "more promising space projects" after 2020, he said.
In addition, Russia would not allow its native rocket engines to launch US military satellites and would close off eleven GPS sites on its territory until further notice. The measures are in response to sanctions from the United States, which Rogozin called "out of place and inappropriate."
While the United States has had access to the International Space Station for years, the only way to enter the station is using Russian Soyuz spacecraft, the Daily Mail notes. This gives Russia full discretion to decide which astronauts can access it.
Rogozin had previously hinted that Russia might use the space program as a way to counter a series of sanctions on it from the United States after Russia annexed the Ukrainian province of Crimea. After an initial round of sanctions in April, Rogozin tweeted that America should find another way to reach the International Space station: "I suggest U.S. delivers its astronauts to the ISS [international space station] with a trampoline."
That outburst came as a response to a sanction directly related to NASA. In April, the American space agency announced that "Given Russia's ongoing violation of Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity, Nasa is suspending the majority of its ongoing engagements with the Russian Federation." Those engagements did not include the International Space Station, however, which NASA was keen on keeping open for longer than the original date set to expire in 2020. That announcement came a month after questions surrounding the tensions between ethnic Russians and Ukrainians in Ukraine escalated, during which NASA announced that all ties with Russia's space program were "normal."
The news of further dissolution of ties with the United States followed a call by Russia for the European Union to stop issuing new sanctions and instead open dialogue with Russia. The latest round of sanctions from the EU targets individuals with power in the Russian government who are considered to be especially responsible for the annexation of Crimea and continued violence in the region.