Russia Bans U.S. Military Use of Its Rocket Engines

Russia is halting exports of its rocket engines to the U.S. for use in launching military satellites, the country’s first major retaliation to sanctions over Ukraine.

Russia will also close Global Positioning System stations on its territory by Sept. 1 unless the U.S. allows installations for Russia’s competing Glonass system, Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin told reporters in Moscow today. The country also won’t comply with a U.S. request to extend work on the International Space Station beyond 2020, he said.

“It would be strange for military payloads to be launched using the intellectual resources of the Russian people to carry out tasks in space that we know nothing about,” Rogozin said. Such sales will stop without U.S. guarantees that rocket engines will be used only with civilian payloads, he said.

The dispute over Ukraine has strained the Cold War-era foes’ cooperation in space, which had mostly been spared from geopolitical disputes since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991. National Aeronautics and Space Administration relies on Russia’s Soyuz rockets to get astronauts to the space station after ending its shuttle program in 2011.

A Boeing Co.-Lockheed Martin Corp. venture that launches satellites for the U.S. military on May 8 won an end to a ban on buying Russian rocket engines as a federal judge said the purchases don’t violate sanctions stemming from Russia’s annexation of Crimea.

The Russian ban may be softened eventually, according to Konstantin Makiyenko, the deputy head of the Moscow-based Center for the Analysis of Strategies and Technologies.

‘We’ll Sell’

“It’s a response to the sanctions, but I don’t think that such a decision will be implemented in reality,” he said by phone from Moscow. “If the Americans want to continue buying these rocket engines, we’ll sell them. This is cutting off your nose to spite your face.”

NASA last month reversed a decision to suspend most contacts as part of sanctions imposed over the annexation of Crimea, the Moscow-based state news service RIA Novosti reported, citing Sergei Savelyеv, deputy head of the Russia’s space agency known as Roscosmos.

The U.S. agency had said April 3 that it was suspending the “majority” of its engagements with Russia because of violations of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Russia’s decision to halt space engine exports will benefit those in the U.S. who are lobbying for a total separation of the two countries’ space industries, Yuri Karash, a member of the Tsiolkovsky Russian Academy of Cosmonautics, said by phone from St. Petersburg.

The export stop will hurt the Russian space industry as the U.S. has a two-year stockpile of the engines, he said.

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