The head of Russia’s space agency, Roscosmos, is again threatening to end service to the International Space Station, saying Russia will stop supplying rocket engines to the United States and may curtail cooperation on the station in retaliation for Western sanctions against Russia for the invasion of Ukraine. NASA says operations on the orbiting observatory are normal.  

In an interview with Russian state television Thursday, Roscosmos chief Dmitry Rogozin said, considering the situation, “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 Russia has delivered 122 RD-180 engines to the U.S. since the 1990s, of which 98 have been used to power Atlas launch vehicles. The Washington Post said the engines are also used by United Launch Alliance, the joint venture of Lockheed Martin and Boeing to launch national security missions for the Pentagon. 

Russia said it would cut off the supply of the RD-181 engines used in Northrop Grumman’s Antares rocket, which is used to fly cargo and supplies to the International Space Station. 

Projects with Germans scrapped

Rogozin tweeted Thursday that Russian cosmonauts would not cooperate with Germany on joint experiments on the Russian segment of the ISS. Roscosmos will conduct them independently. He went on to say the “Russian space program will be adjusted against the backdrop of sanctions; the priority will be the creation of satellites in the interests of defense.” 

Earlier in the week, in another interview with state television, Rogozin noted Russia is responsible for space station navigation, as well as fuel deliveries to the orbiting lab. He said Roscosmos “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.”

Russia had announced earlier that it was suspending cooperation with Europe on space launches from the Kourou spaceport in French Guiana in response to Western sanctions.

Cooperation in space has traditionally avoided politics, and when asked about the situation Tuesday during a meeting of the NASA Advisory Council, NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said, “Despite the challenges here on Earth, and they are substantial …. NASA continues the working relationship with all our international partners to ensure their safety and the ongoing safe operations of the ISS.”

Some information for this report came from Reuters.

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