Russia is to end co-operation on the International Space Station, the head of its space agency has said.
The country will no longer work with partners such as Nasa and the European Space Agency on the floating lab, Roscosmos chief Dmitry Rogozin announced on social media. He said a timetable for completion of the work together will be submitted to the Russia’s leadership.
The ISS is the last remaining significant space project that Russia works on with those partner space agencies, after other launches and work was cancelled in the wake of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. But it remains arguably the most important, since it is home for a number of astronauts and its orbit must be constantly maintained to avoid it falling back down to Earth.
Mr Rogozin, for instance, has threatened that sanctions could disrupt that work and lead the station to “fall down into the sea or onto land”.
For now, however, space agencies involved with working on the station have largely continued to work as normal throughout the war on the ground. Russia safely bought Nasa astronaut Mark Vande Hei back to Earth last week, for instance – despite suggestions that they could refuse – and work has continued on the ISS and its orbit.
In March, however, Mr Rogozin appealed to space agencies around the world, asking them to lift sanctions on companies in the Russian rocket and space industries to guarantee that work on the ISS would continue. He imposed a deadline of the end of the month.
They responded without any indication that those sanctions would be lifted, but with a commitment to continuing work on the space station.
“The position of our partners is clear: the sanctions will not be lifted,” Mr Rogozin wrote on Twitter. “At the same time, fearing the destruction of cooperation on the ISS, where the role of Russia is of fundamental importance to ensure the viability and safety of the station, Western partners make it clear that in reality, sanctions in terms of work in the interests of the ISS will not work.
“I consider this state of affairs unacceptable. Sanctions from the US, Canada, the European Union and Japan are aimed at blocking financial, economic and production activities of our high-tech enterprises,” he continued.
He then said that the sanctions are so significant that co-operation would not be considered possible for as long as they were in place.
“I believe that the restoration of normal relations between partners in the International Space Station and other joint projects is possible only with the complete and unconditional lifting of illegal sanctions,” he concluded.
“Specific proposals of Roskosmos on the timing of the completion of cooperation within the ISS with the space agencies of the United States, Canada, the European Union and Japan will be reported to the leadership of our country in the near future.”