Saturday, July 16, 2022

A Large Upset in the World's Space Programs

Dmitry Rogozin is out as director general of Russia's state-owned space corporation, Roscosmos, in a move over the Thursday/Friday time frame in Eastern Russia, inescapably earlier by US time.  Former Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Borisov will replace Rogozin.  While Rogozin has been combative and tended toward extreme rhetoric since the Ukraine war started, he was a well-known figure.  Yuri Borisov is a rather complete unknown at this point. 

This brings an end to Rogozin's tumultuous career at Roscosmos, where he directly worked with the leaders of other international space agencies, including NASA and other International Space Station partners such as Europe, Canada, and Japan. Since the invasion of Ukraine, Rogozin has been increasingly bellicose and made numerous threats about Russian participation in the station. While most of those threats have ended up being hollow, they have damaged working relations with the West.

Dmitry Rogozin - AP file photo by Pavel Golovkin  

Eric Berger from Ars Technica compiled a list of controversies that Rogozin has been involved in over just the last week, with just the Western space industry .

  • July 7: NASA took the extremely rare step of publicly criticizing Roscosmos after it used the International Space Station for propaganda purposes, supporting breakaway regions of Ukraine. "NASA strongly rebukes Russia using the International Space Station for political purposes to support its war against Ukraine," the space agency said. The European and Canadian space agencies also joined the criticism.
  • July 11: The Russian publication Aviation Explorer reported that Rogozin refused to take a call from NASA Administrator Bill Nelson in the wake of the ISS propaganda incident. "There is nothing to talk about. Let the sanctions be lifted first,” Rogozin reportedly said.
  • July 12: Rogozin mocked US President Joe Biden on his Telegram channel after NASA revealed the first photograph from the James Webb Space Telescope in a ceremony at the White House. Rogozin said Biden needed a big magnifying glass and went to the bathroom for a long time.
  • July 12: The European Space Agency said it is "officially" terminating work with Russia on the ExoMars probe to land on Mars. Rogozin responded with an angry message on this Telegram account, calling ESA chief Josef Aschbacher an "irresponsible bureaucrat."
  • July 12: In a tit-for-tat move, Rogozin threatened to halt Russian cooperation on the use of a new European robotic arm on the space station. This arm was developed for ESA by a number of European countries and launched to the Russian segment of the space station in July 2021. Rogozin's comment raised questions about whether a spacewalk scheduled for next week to work on the robotic arm, by Roscosmos cosmonaut Oleg Artemyev and ESA astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti, would proceed.

In a separate,"we swear this isn't related," announcement,  NASA and Rozcosmos agreed to what's called "the Trampoline swap" that has been discussed for some time.  The two agencies will swap one seat on Soyuz for one seat on Crew Dragon.  NASA astronaut, Frank Rubio, will fly with cosmonauts Sergey Prokopyev and Dmitry Petelin on the Soyuz MS-22 mission and Russian cosmonaut, Anna Kikina, will fly with NASA astronauts Nicole Mann, Josh Cassada and Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata on the SpaceX Crew-5 mission.  Both the Soyuz MS-22 and Crew-5 missions are currently scheduled for September.    

While every American astronaut who flew to the Space Station between the end of the Shuttle program and the advent of the Crew Dragon has ridden a Soyuz capsule, cosmonaut Anna Kikina will be the first Russian to ride the Crew Dragon and the first Russian to ride any American space vehicle besides the Shuttle.

In addition to those named crews, NASA's Loral O’Hara will fly along with cosmonauts Oleg Kononenko and Nikolai Chub on the Soyuz MS-23 mission next spring.  Cosmonaut Andrey Fedyaev will join NASA astronauts Steve Bowen and Woody Hoburg as part of the Crew-6 mission next spring.

This is being featured as (sold as) a no exchange of funds, or straight swap.   

"The no-exchange-of-funds arrangement includes transportation to and from the International Space Station and comprehensive mission support, including all necessary training and preparation for launch, flight operations, landing, and crew rescue services," [NASA spokesman Josh] Finch said.


  1. At a time that Russia seriously needs out-of-Russia money, Rogozin was seriously screwing up the space money, which wasn't covered by many sanctions.

    Good riddance. Hope the new guy isn't a whack-job.

    1. The new guy will probably be as competent as our very own Bill Whatshisname...
      (Nelson... I know, I know...)

    2. Jackwagon Nelson has actually surprised me as he seems to be acting in a fair and competent way, and has actually questioned the dominant paradigm of SLS and Blue Origin Moon Lander.

  2. The US government has no one but itself to blame for politics muddying the waters of space cooperation. When you wage a proxy war, the people you wage it against aren't going to feel too cooperative.