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Russia suspends Soyuz rocket launches over European sanctions

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Likely delaying the April launch of Galileo satellites

Soyuz-ST rocket carrying 5 satellites launched from Guiana Space Centre
Roscosmos will withdraw all 87 employees from the Guiana Space Centre.
Photo by Sergei Savostyanov\TASS via Getty Images

Russian space agency Roscosmos has announced that it’s temporarily halting Soyuz rocket launches in French Guiana due to sanctions imposed by the European Union, according to a report by Space.com.

“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,” a translated tweet from the agency reads on Twitter. Roscosmos says it’s working on a plan to withdraw all 87 of its staff from the Guiana Space Center in Kourou, who assisted with Soyuz rocket launches for Roscosmos and other Russian companies.

As Space.com points out, European launch provider Arianespace uses Roscosmo’s Soyuz rockets to launch satellites from French Guiana and the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Arianespace was on track to launch two Galileo satellites into orbit using a Soyuz rocket in April, however, that will likely be pushed back due to growing tensions among nations. The US and Europe have put a slew of sanctions on Russia since its invasion into Ukraine, and have also moved to exclude some Russian banks from SWIFT.

“I confirm that this decision has no consequences on the continuity and quality of the Galileo and Copernicus services,” Thierry Breton, the European Commissioner for Space said in a statement. “Nor does this decision put the continued development of these infrastructures at risk.”

Russia and Europe have been readying for a robotic mission to Mars set to take place this year. European Space Agency director Josef Aschbacher says the “ESA continues to work on all of its programmers, including on ISS & EXOMars launch campaign,” but will “continue to monitor the evolving situation.”

In addition to temporarily cutting ties with Arianespace, Roscosmos head Dmitry Rogozin has decided to exclude the US from a joint mission to explore Venus, called Venera-D. Early Saturday morning, Rogozin said he considers “the continued participation of the United States” in Russia’s Venera-D mission “inappropriate” in light of the sanctions it put on Russia. Rogozin also claims these sanctions will ruin relations between Russia and NASA, potentially leading to the downfall of the International Space Station.