Skip to main content

Russia suspends Soyuz launches from Europe spaceport over EU sanctions

The Russian space agency, Roscosmos, has announced it is halting launches of its Soyuz rockets from Europe’s spaceport in French Guiana in response to sanctions from the European Union due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The EU imposed wide-ranging sanctions on Russia this week following missile and troop attacks on Ukrainian cities in what the EU described as an “unprovoked, unjustified invasion.”

“In response to EU sanctions against our enterprises, Roscosmos is suspending cooperation with European partners in organizing space launches from the Kourou cosmodrome and withdrawing its personnel, including the consolidated launch crew, from French Guiana,” head of Roscosmos, Dmitry Rogozin, wrote in a tweet translated from Russian, first reported by space.com.

Russian Soyuz rockets are regularly used by the European Space Agency (ESA) to launch scientific missions, and the Soyuz at the Guiana Space Centre program has been operating since 2011. As pointed out by SpaceNews, in the short term, this will affect the launch of Galileo navigation satellites scheduled for April this year, as well as other missions like the launch of ESA’s EUCLID telescope.

This is not the first time that Russia has threatened to revoke access to its rockets in protest of sanctions from the international community. In 2014, when Russia annexed Crimea and the U.S. imposed economic sanctions, Russian officials threatened to stop letting U.S. astronauts launch to the International Space Station (ISS) using Russian rockets. At the time, the Space Shuttle program had been retired and the SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule had not yet been developed, so Russian rockets were the only way the U.S. had to ferry its astronauts to the station. In that case, Russia did continue to carry U.S. astronauts, and now the U.S has its own capabilities with the SpaceX Crew Dragon.

The current situation also raises questions about the future of the ISS. The current contract requires the ongoing operation of the ISS until 2024, but NASA and other agencies hope to keep the station running until 2031. If Russia pulls out and declines to continue supporting the ISS, the end of the space station could come much sooner. Rogozin, the head of Roscosmos, has also made threats about how the station could be subject to an “uncontrolled deorbit” without the Russian segment of the station providing guidance and navigation, though these threats are generally not taken seriously due to the presence of Russian cosmonauts on the station.

Editors' Recommendations

Georgina Torbet
Georgina is the Digital Trends space writer, covering human space exploration, planetary science, and cosmology. She…
Launch of Europe’s Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer delayed by 24 hours
An Ariane 5 rocket containing the Juice spacecraft on the launchpad at Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana, on Thursday April 13 2023.

The launch of the European Space Agency (ESA)'s JUICE mission to the icy moons of Jupiter has been delayed by 24 hours due to weather conditions. Risk of lightning near the launch pad at Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana meant that the launch was scrubbed around 10 minutes prior to the scheduled liftoff today, Thursday, April 13.

Juice launch to Jupiter

Read more
How Europe’s ExoMars rover plans to get to Mars without Russia
ESA’s Rosalind Franklin twin rover is back on its wheels and drilled down 1.7 metres into a martian-like ground in Italy – about 25 times deeper than any other rover has ever attempted on Mars. The test rover, known as Amalia, also collected samples for analysis under the watchful eye of European science teams.

Space missions get scuppered for all kinds of reasons, from engineering problems to budget issues. But the ExoMars mission, Europe and Russia's joint plan to send a rover to Mars, faced a complicated political and ethical issue when Russia invaded Ukraine last year. The European Space Agency (ESA) had been working with the Russian space agency Roscomos on the mission but this partnership was soon suspended over what ESA called the "human casualties and tragic consequences of the aggression towards Ukraine."

Without Roscosmos, the Rosalind Franklin rover was left without a launcher and it was not clear whether the rover would be able to launch at all. But loath to give up on the project, ESA decided it would build its own lander and get the rover to Mars hopefully by 2030. This week, ESA shared more information about the plans for the mission and how it is continuing with testing for the rover.

Read more
Russian replacement Soyuz scheduled for February 24 launch
The ISS Progress 82 cargo craft is pictured shortly after docking to the space station in October of 2022.

Russia's space agency has announced it plans to launch a replacement Soyuz spacecraft to bring home ISS crew members later this month.

In an announcement posted to Telegram, Russian space agency Roscosmos said it was planning to launch the replacement Soyuz vehicle on February 24 at 3:34 a.m. Moscow time, which is equivalent to 7:34 p.m. ET on February 23.

Read more