In retaliation for imposing sanctions, Russia will also bar its rocket engines from launching US military satellites
Russia is to deny the US future use of the International Space Station beyond 2020 and will also bar its rocket engines from launching US military satellites as it hits back at American sanctions imposed over Ukraine crisis.
Russia’s deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin announced a series of punitive measures on Tuesday against the US in response to sanctions imposed after Russia annexed Crimea.
The two countries have long cooperated closely on space exploration despite their clashes in foreign policy.
The Space Station is manned by both American and Russian crew, but the only way to reach it is by using Russia’s Soyuz spacecraft.
The US is keen to keep the $100 billion ISS flying until at least 2024, four years beyond its original target.
Russia charges Nasa astronauts $70m per seat.
At a time when Moscow is struggling to reform its accident-plagued space program, Mr Rogozin said US plans to deny export licences for some high-technology items were a blow to Russian industry. “These sanctions are out of place and inappropriate,” Mr Rogozin said. “We have enough of our own problems.”
Moscow’s response would affect NK-33 and RD-180 engines which Russia supplies to the US, Mr Rogozin said. “We are ready to deliver these engines but on one condition that they will not be used to launch military satellites,” he said.
RD-180 engines are used to boost Atlas 5 rockets manufactured by United Launch Alliance, a partnership of Lockheed Martin and Boeing that holds a virtual monopoly on launching U.S. military satellites.
Mr Rogozin said Moscow was planning “strategic changes” in its space industry after 2020 and aims to use money and “intellectual resources” that now go to the space station for a “a project with more prospects”.
He suggested Russia could use the station without the United States, saying: “The Russian segment can exist independently from the American one. The U.S. one cannot.”
The US space agency NASA is working with companies to develop space taxis with the goal of restoring US transport to the station by 2017, but the United States currently pays Russia more than $60 million per person to fly its astronauts up.
Mr Rogozin said Russia will suspend the operation of 11 GPS sites on its territory from June and seek talks with Washington on opening similar sites in the United States for Russia’s own satellite navigation system, Glonass.
He threatened the permanent closure of the GPS sites in Russia if that is not agreed by September.
He said the suspension of the sites would not affect everyday operations of the GPS system in Russia, where it is used by millions of Russians for navigation on their
smartphones and in their cars.
The upheaval in Ukraine – where the United States says Russia is backing separatists and the Kremlin accuses Washington of helping protesters to topple a Moscow-friendly president in February, has led to the worst East-West crisis since the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union.
In addition to the hi-tech sector sanctions, the US has imposed visa bans and assets freezes on officials and lawmakers and targeted companies with links to President Vladimir Putin. The European Union has also imposed sanctions.
The Russian Foreign Ministry said earlier on Tuesday that the latest EU measures were an “exhausted, trite approach” that would only deepen discord and hamper efforts to defuse the crisis in Ukraine.