On Monday, the US Department of Commerce released a list of Chinese and Russian companies saying it had military ties. The list named 58 Chinese and 43 Russian companies as “military end users” and required exporters to obtain a license before selling the product. Such licenses are unlikely to be issued.
Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross made the announcement, saying, “The Department understands the importance of its partnership with the US and global companies to deal with efforts by China and Russia to remove US technology to destabilize their military programs.”
The list includes several space companies from China and Russia, including the Progress Rocket Space Center in Samara, Russia. The company develops and manufactures the Soyuz rocket that has carried Russian and American astronauts to the International Space Station for the past decade after the American space shuttle retired.
The inclusion of the Soyuz maker sparked a sharp rebuke from Dmitry Rogozin, leader of the Russian space corporation, Roscosmos, on Tuesday. In his heated statement, Rogozin said the restrictions were “illegal”, and he portrayed them as “stupid”.
“This Samara enterprise produces the legendary Soyuz-2 launch vehicles, with the help of which the Soyuz MS spacecraft is already carrying US astronauts to the ISS for 10 years,” he said. “Now, it turns out that our American allies are reworking their ‘trampoline, and the first thing is that they spit well in Samara. Isn’t it too early, colleagues, if your ‘Trampoline’ suddenly breaks again. ” You have to fulfill your passion for space again from our well? “
At six years
Rogozin’s remarks about a trampoline date from six years ago, when he was personally targeted for sanctions by the US government after the Russian invasion of Crimea. At the time, when NASA was eyeing Russia solely to take astronauts to the International Space Station, Rogozin said, “After analyzing the sanctions against our space industry I suggest that the US distribute its astronauts to the ISS with a trisoline.”
This ultimately proved embarrassing for Rogozin. In May, SpaceX’s Crew Dragon and Falcon 9 rockets launched humans into orbit from the United States for the first time since 2011, with company founder Elon Musk quipping, “Trumpoline is working.” SpaceX has since safely commissioned a second crew for the space station and scheduled two more missions for 2021. Roscosmos has not yet committed to flying a Cosmonaut on an American vehicle.
With his latest comments, then, Rogozin is suggesting that SpaceX vehicles may yet have problems. This is perhaps not surprising, as Ars has recently pointed out, Rogozin is aware of SpaceX’s success and has damaged the economic prospects of his own corporation.
None of this seems helpful for the ongoing collaboration between NASA and Roskosmos to operate the space station. “These sanctions are detrimental, as Rozin acknowledged, because they would create additional obstacles and troubles in such an important cooperation between Russians and Americans in space and in particular on the ISS,” Rozin said.
Six years ago, Rogozin’s words ultimately proved to be little more than blur. It remains to be seen whether today’s statements and the consequences of these economic sanctions have created a more permanent problem for the international partnership that has successfully blown the space station for over two decades.