Roscosmos Official: U.S.-Russian Space Cooperation Deteriorating

Roscosmos boss Dmitry Rogozin meets with Russia’s boss of bosses, President Vladimir Putin. (Credit: Russian President’s Office)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Although Russian President Vladimir Putin is apparently U.S. President Donald Trump’s favorite autocratic ruler, cooperation between the two nations on future space projects are breaking down, a high-ranking Roscosmos official said.

The Russian space agency posted the following comments on its website.

Ambitious projects connected with Moon colonization could become a major factor of interaction between Russia and the US during these difficult times, says Roscosmos Deputy Director General for International Cooperation Sergey Saveliev. 

“I regret that the recent years have seen direct communication channels between Roscosmos and NASA deteriorate significantly. Instead of discussing dozens of projects of mutual interest everything boils down to either launching astronauts to the International Space Station as part of the crewed program or supplying Russian RD-180/181 rocket engines to the US. Ambitious projects connected with Moon colonization could become a major factor for interaction between the two countries during difficult times.

Sergey Saveliev added that Roscosmos delegation had been officially invited to the US to discuss a wide range of questions, “but in the long run NASA head Jim Bridenstine’s invitation was withdrawn under the pressure of the Senate.

“We officially invited NASA management to Russia but didn’t receive any answer. I hope it will follow and will be a positive one,” Saveliev says.

The Trump Administration has NASA laser focused on returning U.S. astronauts to the lunar surface in 2024. Last year, the administration moved the target date up from 2028.

Roscosmos Director General Dmitry Rogozin is prohibited from entering the United States because he is one of a group of officials sanctioned over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and annexation of that nation’s Crimea region.

Rogozin formerly served as deputy prime minister. He was one of seven Russian officials sanctioned in March 2014 over their involvement in the invasion and annexation.

Rogozin had planned to visit the United States in February 2019 to confer with Bridenstine and other U.S. officials about space cooperation. That invitation was withdrawn after criticism from members of Congress over the decision to temporarily lift the sanctions to allow the visit.

Bridenstine has visited Russia to consult with Roscosmos officials over on-going operations of the space station and NASA’s Artemis lunar program.

In addition to the partnership on ISS, Russia remains crucial to U.S. space operations by supplying RD-180 and RD-181 rocket engines for American launch vehicles.

United Launch Alliance (ULA) uses the RD-180 engine in the first stage of its Atlas V booster. The RD-181 is used in the first stage of Northrop Grumman’s Antares booster.

ULA will use Atlas V to launch crews to the station aboard its Starliner spacecraft. Antares launches Cygnus resupply ships to ISS.

Both companies are developing new launch vehicles that will not use Russian engines. Several years ago, the U.S. government decided to eliminate its dependence on Russian rocket motors on national security grounds.