The Russian invasion of Ukraine may not have seen military action taken by the rest of the world, but other countries have certainly come in solidarity and imposed a host of stringent financial and other sanctions. Big Tech companies have done their part as well as some have suspended operations in Russia or halted sales in the country.
Now, in response, Russia has stopped selling and shipping rocket engines to the US. The same was announced by Dmitry Rogozin, the head of Russian space agency Roscosmos, on Thursday. This also comes after Roscosmos announced it would not launch 36 OneWeb internet satellites on Friday unless the London-headquartered OneWeb guaranteed that the craft would not be used for military purposes, and the UK government agreed to divest itself from OneWeb.
“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 a state-run broadcast. He claimed that since the 1990s, Russia had delivered 122 RD-180 engines to the US, and out of them, 98 have been used.
It is not likely that this development will hinder the US from reaching beyond our planet. If Russia has Roscosmos, then the US has NASA, and private companies such as SpaceX, Blue Origin, Rocket Labs, Virgin Galactic, and others to turn to. In fact, Blue Origin had been asked by the ULA (United Launch Alliance) to develop a replacement for the Russian RD-180 engines back in 2018.
“I have not been informed at this point of any major launch concerns associated with that,” U.S. Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall said during a media roundtable at the Air Force Association’s Air Warfare Symposium, adding that he felt that their launch needs would be met. The RD-180 rocket engines are used by the ULA for its Atlas V rocket, and it still has another 22 Atlas V launches scheduled.
If this is not enough, RosCosmos has also put a halt to the launch of Russian-built Soyuz rockets from Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana, and warned that the imposition of economic sanctions will have consequences for the International Space Station (ISS). “Do you want to destroy our cooperation on the ISS?” he had tweeted earlier. He added in a later interview that it was Russia that was responsible for both the navigation of the space station and delivering fuel to the ISS.
“Therefore, we will closely monitor the actions of our American partners and, if they continue to be hostile, we will return to the question of the existence of the International Space Station,” Rogozin said. “I would not like such a scenario, because I expect that the Americans will cool down.” Russia has also ceased collaborating with Germany on research at the ISS and will rather perform the investigations independently.