Tensions are building in the space community as Russia ramps up threats and takes action against other international governments with an evolving, escalating war in space high above the skies of Ukraine. Today, Russia has decided to stop supplying rocket engines to the United States in retaliation for its sanctions against Russia over Ukraine, Dmitry Rogozin, head of the state space agency Roscosmos said. This move occurs just a day after Russia threatened to pull the plug on tomorrow’s scheduled launch for UK-based satellite internet communications company OneWeb and days after threatening to crash the International Space Station (ISS) into the United States or other potential countries around the world.
“In a situation like this we can’t supply the United States with our world’s best rocket engines. Let them fly on something else, their broomsticks, I don’t know what,” Rogozin said on state Russian television. According to Rogozin, Russia has delivered a total of 122 RD-180 engines to the U.S. since the 1990s, of which 98 have been used to power Atlas launch vehicles, including this week’s GOES-T weather satellite launch.
Roscosmos will also stop servicing rocket engines it had previously delivered to the U.S., Rogozin said, adding that the U.S. still had 24 engines that would now be left without Russian technical assistance.
Yesterday, Rogozin said he wants assurances from OneWeb that the company’s satellites will not be used for military purposes. Roscosmos also demanded that the British government, which is a primary shareholder in OneWeb, divest its stake in the company. If these demands aren’t met, Roscosmos says it will roll back the Soyuz rocket, and the launch won’t take place as planned tomorrow. Most in the international space community don’t believe the launch will happen.
Kwasi Kwarteng, Britain’s secretary of state for business, energy, and industry strategy, tweeted that the demands will not be met. “There’s no negotiation on OneWeb: the UK Government is not selling its share,” he Tweeted.
As space war brews, Russia is actively removing flags of the USA and United Kingdom from their rockets. These rockets are typically used by entities around the world. https://t.co/CMfyAjOLgB
— the Weatherboy (@theWeatherboy) March 2, 2022
While Russia was busy scrubbing away the American and UK flags from rockets used to carry people and payloads around the world to space, a joint-mission between Russia and Europe through the European Space Agency (ES) seems unlikely to move forward.
ESA released a statement that read, “We deplore the human casualties and tragic consequences of the war in Ukraine. We are giving absolute priority to taking proper decisions, not only for the sake of our workforce involved in the programmes, but in full respect of our European values, which have always fundamentally shaped our approach to international cooperation.”
“Regarding the ExoMars programme continuation, the sanctions and the wider context make a launch in 2022 very unlikely. ESA’s Director General will analyse all the options and prepare a formal decision on the way forward by ESA Member States,” said the ESA statement.
There are also unconfirmed reports that entities, like Anonymous, have hacked into Russia’s space program and spy satellites. Russia says they will treat any hacking of its satellites as a justification for war. “Offlining the satellites of any country is actually a casus belli, a cause for war,” Interfax quoted Rogozin as saying. Russia has not ruled out the use of nuclear weapons to respond to such actions.