Ariane 6, Vega-C, Microlaunchers: ESA Looks to Full Range of Launch Options for European Institutional Missions

Artist’s view of Ariane 6 and Vega-C. (Credit: ESA – D. Ducros)

PARIS (ESA PR) — ESA Director General Josef Aschbacher today underscored the Agency’s determination to ensure that ESA’s work in space is not derailed by the tragic events in Ukraine. Mr Aschbacher stresses that work continues to assess the impact on each ongoing programme, including on missions affected by Roscosmos’ withdrawal of Soyuz launch operations from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana.

In addition, ESA is preparing proposals that, if endorsed by its Member States, will further support European microlauncher services to complement the Ariane and Vega programmes, which form the backbone of Europe’s space transportation capability.

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Russia’s Decision Day on ISS Nears as Western Sanctions Remain

Vladimir Putin receives a briefing from Roscosmos General Director Dmitry Rogozin. (Credit: Office of the Russian President)

Russian participation in the International Space Station (ISS) is up in the air (sorry, bad pun) as partners in the orbiting facility show no sign of lifting sanctions over the invasion of Ukraine by a March 31 deadline. Earlier this month, TASS reported on a threat by Roscosmos Director General Dmitry Rogozin.

“We will wait until the end of March. The lack of response or a negative response would be a basis for our decision,” he said, without specifying what kind of decision it would be….

During an earlier meeting with Russian lawmakers, Rogozin said the work of the International Space Station was no longer effective amid the current geopolitical sitaution. He also said that ‘colossal funding’ will be required to continue ISS operations until 2030, otherwise “the station will fall into pieces.”

The United States, Canada and Japan have imposed sanctions on Russia over the invasion. The European Space Agency is abiding by sanctions imposed by its member states. There are no signs the sanctions will be lifted as brutal fighting continues in Ukraine.

Roscosmos is the state-owned company that owns nearly all of Russia’s space industry. A number of Roscosmos companies have been sanctioned over the Russian invasion of Ukaine. Rogozin has been personally under U.S. sanctions since Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimea region in 2014.

NASA officials have said it would be difficult, not to mention expensive, to keep the station operating if Russia pulls out of ISS. Roscosmos provides crew, supplies, fuel and orbital re-boost of the station. There is an entire Russian section of the facility.

NASA to Release Draft RFP for Second Human Lunar Lander

Artist concept of the SpaceX Starship on the surface of the Moon. (Credits: SpaceX)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

NASA plans to release a draft request for proposal (RFP) by the end of the month for a second crewed lunar lander to join the Human Landing System (HLS) being developed by SpaceX, officials announced during a media conference on Wednesday.

“Competition is the key to our success,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said in describing the Sustaining Lunar Development contract.

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SpaceX to Launch Rival OneWeb’s Broadband Satellites

Falcon 9 launches 53 Starlink satellites from Cape Canaveral. (Credit: SpaceX)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

OneWeb announced this morning that it will resume launches of its broadband satellite constellation with SpaceX, which is deploying its rival Starlink broadband satellite network. The agreement comes after OneWeb terminated a contract to continue launching on Soyuz boosters in the wake of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

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Russian Cosmonauts Enter Space Station Wearing Flight Suits with Colors Similar to Ukraine Flag

Soyuz MS-21 crew members aboard the International Space Station. (Credit: Roscosmos webcast)

A three man crew of Russian cosmonauts entered the International Space station today wearing bright yellow flight suits with blue trim — colors very similar to those used on the flag of Ukraine, which Russia invaded last month.

Oleg Artemyev, Denis Matveev, and Sergey Korsakov arrived at the station on the Soyuz MS-21 spacecraft at 3:12 p.m. EDT. They were launched aboard a Soyuz rocket from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

It’s possible they are protesting Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decision to attack Ukraine. In which case, they are extremely brave. Or it might just be a giant coincidence. They might have chosen these colors — which have been used on the station before — months earlier.

The cosmonauts joined Expedition 66 Commander Anton Shkaplerov and cosmonaut Pyotr Dubrov of Roscosmos, NASA astronauts Mark Vande Hei, Raja Chari, Tom Marshburn, and Kayla Barron, and European Space Agency astronaut Matthias Maurer.

On March 30, a Soyuz spacecraft will return as scheduled carrying hkaplerov, Dubrov and Vande Hei back to Earth. Upon their return, Vande Hei will hold the American record for the longest single human spaceflight mission of 355 days.

ESA Suspends Cooperation with Russia on ExoMars Mission, Launch Delayed at Least 2 Years

An artist’s impression of the ExoMars Rosalind Franklin rover on the surface of Mars. (Credit: ESA/ATG medialab)

PARIS (ESA PR) — As an intergovernmental organisation mandated to develop and implement space programmes in full respect with European values, we deeply deplore the human casualties and tragic consequences of the aggression towards Ukraine. While recognising the impact on scientific exploration of space, ESA is fully aligned with the sanctions imposed on Russia by its Member States.

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Sanctions Threaten to Derail Russian Satellite Industry

Proton rocket lifts off on July 31, 2020. (Credit: Roscosmos)

The economic sanctions imposed on Russia by Europe over the invasion of Ukraine could be a second serious blow to the Russian satellite manufacturing industry, Anatoly Zak writes at Russianspaceweb.com.

The first blow occurred after the United States imposed a ban on the export of satellite technology following the Russian annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea region in 2014. Russian manufacturers, who were heavily reliant on Western technology, took a two-pronged approach: increase cooperation with Europe, and attempt to build up a domestic capability for the components they previously bought from the West.

Domestic efforts have been slow, however, and now imports from Europe have dried up due to sanctions. Zak writes:

But in 2022, the Russian communications satellite projects had hit a real wall, along with the rest of the Russian economy, after Putin’s new invasion of Ukraine. The overwhelmingly wide sanctions against the Kremlin left practically no chance for Russia to complete any of its communications satellites in the development pipeline at the time due to their dependency on Western payloads.

Conceivably, Russia could turn to China for necessary components or/and Moscow could try again developing necessary competencies inside the country, but given little signs of progress on both of those fronts in the past, it could probably take years if not decades before all the technological gaps could be closed and it would be even more difficult to do under much harsher economic conditions and export controls. It is also a question whether China would be interested in boosting strategically important industries in Russia with potential military implications or whether it would want to challenge the Western sanctions regime by putting at risk its far more important trade relations with the United States.

China’s decision on how much to help Vladimir Putin ameliorate the sanctions will go a long way to determining the future of Russia.

UK Bans Aviation and Space Exports to Russia Over Ukraine Invasion

  • new powers to detain Russian aircraft and remove aircraft belonging to designated individuals and entities from the UK register
  • ban on the export of aviation and space-related goods and technology, including technical assistance
  • further ban on UK companies providing insurance and re-insurance services in relation to these goods and technology

LONDON (UK Government PR) — Foreign Secretary Liz Truss has announced a new suite of aviation sanctions giving the UK Government new powers to detain any Russian aircraft here in the UK. We have also strengthened the current overflight and landing ban on Russian aircraft, laying new legislation today to make it a criminal offence for any Russian aircraft to fly or land in the UK.

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Suspension of Soyuz Launches Operated by Arianespace & Starsem

Soyuz rocket launches 36 OneWeb satellites from Baikonur Cosmodrome on Dec. 27, 2021. (Credit: Arianespace)

Arianespace Press Release

Arianespace is strictly abiding by the sanctions decided by the international community (European Union, United States of America and United Kingdom) following the invasion of Ukraine by Russia.

As part of the mandate given by the ESA Member States to Arianespace, the operation of the Soyuz launcher from Europe’s Spaceport (CSG, French Guiana) and from Baikonur (Kazakhstan) through Starsem are governed by France/Russia inter-governmental agreement and ESA – Roscosmos space agencies agreement. This operation began after the end of the Soviet Union and has been very successful up to now. However, it is now challenged by Roscosmos’ unilateral decision to withdraw from CSG and suspend all Soyuz launches from Europe’s Spaceport. Readied Soyuz launchers and Galileo satellites are in stable configuration and in security.

Regarding ST38 for OneWeb from Baikonur, it has been postponed indefinitely following the conditions posed by Roscosmos to proceed. Arianespace will work with its partners to ensure the well-being of the goods and means currently in Baikonur.

Arianespace is in close contact with its customers and French and European authorities to best assess all the consequences of this situation and develop alternative solutions.

In the meantime, preparation of upcoming Ariane 5 and Vega C campaigns of 2022 are progressing according to plan and schedule.

Taking over from Ariane 5 and Vega, Ariane 6 and Vega C will provide Europe with a sustainable and autonomous access to space. Arianespace is confident in the success of these two launchers, to which it has been strongly committed since ESA’s 2014 Ministerial Conference in Luxembourg, on European institutional and global commercial markets.

Russian Military Could Use Starlink Service to Target Ukrainians

Last weekend, Ukraine’s vice prime minister, Mykhailo Fedorov, tweeted an urgent plea to billionaire Elon Musk for help in keeping the Internet operating amid a brutal Russian invasion.

@elonmusk, while you try to colonize Mars — Russia try to occupy Ukraine! While your rockets successfully land from space — Russian rockets attack Ukrainian civil people! We ask you to provide Ukraine with Starlink stations and to address sane Russians to stand.

Musk responded quickly turned SpaceX’s Starlink satellite broadband service on over Ukraine, and within 48 hours a truckload of user antennas and terminals arrived in the embattled nation. The actions garnered worldwide praise for the world’s wealthiest individual. Amid all the acclaim, however, more cautious voices warned of a hidden danger that could put Ukrainian lives at risk.

This morning, five days after the shipment arrived, CNN published a detailed story (SpaceX sent Starlink internet terminals to Ukraine. They could paint a ‘giant target’ on users’ backs, experts say) outlining the potential risks to Ukrainian Starlink users.

After the story went live, Musk slapped a warning label on the terminals via Twitter.

Important warning: Starlink is the only non-Russian communications system still working in some parts of Ukraine, so probability of being targeted is high. Please use with caution.

Hopefully, Ukraine officials are taking proper precautions and Starlink helps rather than adds to their problems.

DLR Ceases Bilateral Cooperation with Russia

DLR Press Release

As one of the largest research organisations in Europe, the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) is committed to engaging in international cooperation for the benefit of society and industry. DLR employs staff from 96 countries. They stand for the peaceful coexistence of all nations and peoples. Violence should never be a means to achieve objectives of any kind. We therefore view the developments in Ukraine with grave concern and condemn Russia’s hostile actions.

DLR and the German Space Agency at DLR have been cooperating with Russian institutions on a number of research projects, in some cases with the participation of other German research organisations and universities, and international partners.

Against the backdrop of the aggressive attack on Ukraine, the DLR Executive Board is taking the following measures:

  • All collaboration activities with Russian institutions on current projects or projects in the planning stage will be terminated.
  • There will be no new projects or initiatives with institutions in Russia.

Where necessary, DLR will enter into coordination with other national and international partners.

The Dmitry Daily: Rogozin Again Threatens Existence of International Space Station if U.S. Remains Hostile to Russian Invasion of Ukraine

This report from the Kremlin-backed RT news channel has extensive comments from Roscosmos Director General Dmitry Rogozin, including a threat to end the International Space Station project. He said he didn’t expect it would happen because he beliefs the U.S. will cool down over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Rogozin has also been busy on Twitter. He tweeted a short video showing workers taping over national flags painted on a Soyuz 2-1.b rocket with 36 OneWeb satellites aboard that was erected on a launch pad at Baikonur Cosmodrome. The launch had been scheduled for Friday. On Thursday, London-based OneWeb announced it was suspending all launches of its spacecraft from Baikonur.

Translation via Twitter: The launchers at Baikonur decided that without the flags of some countries, our rocket would look more beautiful.

Other Recent Tweets
(Translated from Russian)

Rogozin Tweet

Roskosmos will not service the remaining 24 RD-180 engines in the US, and the RD-181 will stop deliveries.

Editor’s note: The RD-180 rocket engines power United Launch Alliance’s Atlas V rocket. Rogozin was referring to Russian personnel who support the launches. Two RD-181 engines power the first stage of Northrop Grumman’s Antares booster that launches Cygnus resupply ships to the space station.

Rogozin Tweet

In the context of the announced sanctions, Roscosmos will reconsider its priorities and focus on achieving full import independence in matters of space instrumentation. The main design, technological and financial resources released from joint ventures with the US and the EU international research projects, will now be directed to the creation of space systems exclusively for defense and dual purposes.

Roscosmos Tweet

The State Corporation will not cooperate with Germany on joint experiments on the Russian segment of the ISS. Roskosmos will conduct them independently.

Russian space program will be adjusted against the backdrop of sanctions, the priority will be the creation of satellites in the interests of defense.

Rogozin Sticks a Knife into Northrop Grumman’s Antares Rocket

Northrop Grumman’s Antares rocket liftoff from pad 0A at 12:40 p.m. EST from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia, on Feb. 19, 2022. The Cygnus spacecraft, carrying 8,300 pounds of science investigations and cargo, is scheduled to arrive at the space station on Monday, Feb. 21. (Credits: NASA Wallops/Allison Stancil)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Roscosmos Director General Dmitry Rogozin said Russia will no longer sell rocket engines to U.S. companies, dealing a potentially fatal blow to Northrop Grumman’s Antares rocket. The decision was made in retaliation for U.S. sanctions over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last week.

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Russia Holds OneWeb Satellites Hostage; No Launch Unless Company & British Government Meet Demands

Vladimir Putin receives a briefing from Roscosmos General Director Dmitry Rogozin. (Credit: Office of the Russian President)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

In what is likely the first hostage drama involving communication satellites, the head of the Russian space program has demanded that the British government divest its shares in OneWeb and that the broadband satellite operator not provide services to foreign militaries in order to launch a new batch of spacecraft. The move comes amid growing tensions over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and sanctions imposed on the country by western nations.

Roscosmos Director General Dmitry Rogozin tweeted that unless these demands are met, Russia will refuse to launch 36 OneWeb satellites that sit atop a Soyuz-2.1b rocket currently on the launch pad at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. The launch is scheduled for Saturday morning Moscow time.

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