‘Gross sabotage’ found at Nord Stream site: report
Investigators from Sweden looking at the Nord Stream pipeline from Russia supplying gas to Europe suggest that ‘gross sabotage’ was found, but have not clarified who might be responsible, according to an NBC News report (opens in new tab) Thursday (Nov. 18). The gas leak emanating from the pipeline is not big enough to affect climate change, however, scientists said last week.
SpaceX’s Starlink, which was used by the nation’s military after an offer from CEO Elon Musk, also reportedly went dark a few weeks ago due to unpaid bills, CNN reported on Nov. 7. (opens in new tab)
Russian military satellite reaches orbit amid threats to U.S.
The Russians sent a possible missile-detection satellite to space Wednesday (Nov. 2) as the country ramps up its rhetoric about attacking U.S. satellites over Ukraine.
A Soyuz-2.1b medium-class rocket launched with the satellite, whose purpose is not officially disclosed, according to a Russian ministry statement quoted by Russian news reports and Reuters (opens in new tab).
The satellite’s orbit suggests it is either a GLONASS navigation satellite or a Kupol missile-tracking satellite, RussiaSpaceWeb’s Anatoly Zak said in a launch report (opens in new tab), suggesting the Kupol is more likely as GLONASS’ next launch is reportedly not ready. Days before, Russia threatened to take action against U.S. commercial companies looking at operations in Ukraine from orbit.
Read more: Russia launches possible missile-tracking satellite amid continuing threats
White House pledges action if Russia targets U.S. satellites
The White House plans to take action should Russia target U.S. commercial satellites examining Ukraine from orbit, as Russia has threatened.
During a press gathering with National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby on Thursday (Oct. 27) about space threats, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters that “any attack on U.S. infrastructure will be met with a response […] in a time and manner of our choosing,” according to a White House transcript (opens in new tab).
By coincidence, earlier in the week the International Space Station had to dodge debris yet again from a Russian anti-satellite test conducted almost a year ago, in November 2021. And Europe is also still recovering from losing Russia on the ExoMars project, as it seeks a new lander for the Mars rover mission.
Read more: White House says US would respond if Russia targets commercial satellites
SpaceX picks up two missions originally scheduled with Russian rockets
The European Space Agency (ESA) will use SpaceX rockets to replace two missions originally planned on Soyuz rockets with Russia’s space agency, Roscosmos.
The two ESA missions chosen for SpaceX Falcon 9 launches are the dark-matter-hunting Euclid space telescope and the Hera probe, which will follow up on NASA’s successful DART asteroid mission. The new targets are for 2023 and 2024, respectively.
Read more: SpaceX replaces Russia on 2 European launches after Ukraine invasion
What’s up with Elon Musk, Starlink and Ukraine?
Our new explainer gives a rundown of the latest funding status of Starlink, SpaceX’s huge broadband constellation of satellites. SpaceX asked the Pentagon for Starlink Ukraine funding help, but soon retracted the request.
Read more: What’s going on with Elon Musk, SpaceX’s Starlink and Ukraine? Here’s what we know.
SpaceX founder Elon Musk asks the Pentagon to fund Starlink in Ukraine
SpaceX founder Elon Musk, after providing terminals and Starlink service to the besieged Ukraine for the past seven months, is asking the Pentagon to take over funding. According to a report by CNN (opens in new tab) that was later confirmed by Musk on Twitter, SpaceX will no longer fund Starlink service there. The company argues the costs of keeping the service going are too high to bear.
Read more: Elon Musk says SpaceX won’t keep funding Starlink in Ukraine, asks Pentagon to take over
Russia strikes different space tone after Rogozin
Russian officials put cooperation on display Wednesday (Oct. 5) during the launch of SpaceX’s Crew-5 astronaut mission for NASA, which flew cosmonaut Anna Kikina to the International Space Station under a seat-swap agreement that NASA and Roscosmos announced in July.
New Roscosmos head Yori Borisov, in comments at a post-launch NASA press conference, struck a different tone than his blustery predecessor Dmitry Rogozin in talking about the coming years of the ISS cooperation that has NASA and Roscosmos as its principal partners.
Read more: Russian space officials jettison the bluster after Rogozin’s departure
Outgoing International Space Station commander: ‘War will end everywhere’
Russian cosmonaut and International Space Station commander Oleg Artemyev said “war will end everywhere” while handing over command of the space station Wednesday (Sept. 28) to Samantha Cristoforetti. Cristoforetti will be the first European ISS female commander and the fifth European overall.
“In spite of everything, in spite of all the storms on Earth, we continue our international cooperation, and thank God that there are smart people who do not stop such a thread of peace,” Artemyev added in Russian during the livestreamed ceremony. (This translation was provided by Google from an automated transcript of his speech.)
The entirety of Expedition 67 has taken place since Russia invaded Ukraine in February. Artemyev, a former member of the Soviet Union army, alluded to the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project between NASA and the Soviets in 1975 as an example of international cooperation to emulate.
Read more: European woman takes command of International Space Station for 1st time
International Space Station crew launches continue as invasion approaches 7-month anniversary
The Russian invasion of Ukraine is approaching its seven-month anniversary, but in the meantime, the country is continuing with crew launches to the International Space Station alongside major partner NASA.
Yesterday (Sept. 21), Russia launched a NASA astronaut to the space station under a new “crew swap” agreement, also sending two cosmonauts to the orbiting complex. They docked later in the day for an expected six-month mission.
A cosmonaut will also take the first-ever Russian seat on a SpaceX spacecraft as a part of the NASA-led Crew 5 mission, which launches no earlier than Oct. 3. The partners are seeking to show that science can carry on with the ISS, which is practically the last space partnership remaining after the invasion. Our feature story explains why that is significant as Russia seeks to put its own space station in orbit in the coming years.
Russia warns satellites could be ‘legitimate target’
A Russian delegation to the United Nations said Monday (Sept. 12) that it may make commercial satellites a “legitimate target” for wartime operations.
The country invaded Ukraine nearly seven months ago to international condemnation, and commercial assets in space like SpaceX’s Starlink have been used to assist Ukraine during the conflict.
Elon Musk’s SpaceX sent multiple shipments of Starlink terminals for better internet coverage and commercial satellite imagery firms such as Planet, Maxar and BlackSky have bee taking pictures of the conflict from above and sharing them openly.
Full story: Russia says private satellites could become ‘legitimate target’ during wartime
Pentagon concerned about Russia, Chinese space missions
Nearly a year after the International Space Station was first threatened by a Russian anti-satellite mission test in November 2021, the Pentagon is keeping an eye on both Russian and Chinese space weapons.
A meeting that will be attended by Pentagon leadership is scheduled for Sept. 6 and Sept. 7. It is concerned with “how China and Russia’s potential development of fractional orbital bombardment systems and space-to-ground weapons could impact U.S. deterrence and strategic stability, as well as to consider U.S. response options to the potential development of such capabilities by any adversary,” according to an agenda for the meeting reviewed by DefenseNews (opens in new tab).
Read more: The Pentagon is worried about space weapons from Russia and China. Here’s why.
Former NASA chief says U.S. space policy was ‘schizophrenic’ towards Russia
Two former NASA administrators, Jim Bridenstine and Charles Bolden, described having a tense relationship with Russia, a major partner on the International Space Station (ISS), during livestreamed remarks on Sunday (Aug. 28).
“I will tell you that our nation’s policy towards Russia, when you consider spaceflight, is schizophrenic,” Bridenstine said during the livestreamed event at Arizona State University. He led NASA between April 2018 and January 2021, having been belatedly appointed during the Trump administration.
Bolden, a former space shuttle commander who served as NASA chief from July 2009 to January 2017 during the two terms of President Barack Obama, said that, from his perspective, the Russian government was a bigger issue than Congress.
Full story: Former NASA chief criticizes ‘schizophrenic’ US space policy regarding Russia
Six months after Ukrainian invasion, effects continue to echo
On the six-month anniversary of Russia’s unsanctioned invasion of Ukraine that started Feb. 22, the effects are severely felt in Ukraine.
The Ukrainian government will have more imagery access from Finnish company ICEYE’s constellation of synthetic aperture radar (SAR) satellites along with dedicated satellite service, thanks to a new deal between ICEYE and the Serhiy Prytula Charity Foundation. “This agreement is a significant step in responding to the government of Ukraine’s urgent request for critical Earth observation data, and it will greatly benefit our armed forces,” Serhiy Prytula said in a statement (opens in new tab).
Earlier this month, satellite images unveiled a great deal of damage at Russia’s Saki Air Base on Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula, which is currently occupied by Russian military forces. A series of explosions blasted aside the airfield on Tuesday (Aug. 9), as seen in footage captured on camera (opens in new tab). There are different reports about who caused the damage amid the ongoing skirmish in the region.
NASA’s ISS extension to 2030 signed into law, awaits partner approval
President Joe Biden signed the Creating Helpful Incentives to Produce Semiconductors (CHIPS) Act into law Tuesday (Aug. 9), which includes approval of NASA’s participation in the International Space Station (ISS) program through September 2030, an extension of six years.
Biden’s signature brings NASA’s agreement to extend until 2030, but the other ISS partners — the space agencies of Canada, Japan, Europe and Russia — must agree as well.
Many of Russia’s space partnerships have fallen apart after its invasion of Ukraine. In recent weeks, Russian officials said they plan to exit the ISS program when their own, independent station is ready to go. (They don’t expect that station to be ready until 2028 at the earliest.)
Read more: President Biden signs CHIPS Act, approving International Space Station extension to 2030
New spy satellite for Iran may be used for Ukraine invasion: report
A spy satellite for Iran lifted off Tuesday (Aug. 9) at 1:52 a.m. EDT (0552 GMT) from the Russia-run Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.
Khayyam, which the mission is called, is a Russian-built Kanopus-V Earth-observation satellite. Its resolution allows for imaging of things as small as 3.9 feet (1.2 meters) across, The Washington Post (opens in new tab) reported last week.
Russia, however, intends to use Khayyam “for several months, or longer, to enhance its surveillance of military targets” for its ongoing invasion of Ukraine, according to The Washington Post’s story. The report cited anonymous Western security officials.
Iran’s state-run official IRNA news agency denied the claim, saying that the country will have full control “from day one”, Reuters (opens in new tab) stated.
Full story: Russia launches sharp-eyed spy satellite for Iran
ExoMars mission still vital despite delays: scientists
While the European Space Agency works to determine the future of the ExoMars mission, scientists are urging the agency to move forward even after the collaboration with Russia’s federal space agency broke apart and forced changes.
“[The rover’s instruments] are going to get a bit old,” John Bridges, a professor of planetary science at Leicester University in the U.K., told Space.com. “But as long as the maintenance can be done, it doesn’t actually bother me too much that we’re not using the most cutting-edge technology. Even if we’re going by bicycle rather than by the newest car, it doesn’t really matter, as long as we get there.”
The most optimistic estimates see the ExoMars rover leaving Earth in 2028, years past its original launch date.
Read more: Europe’s troubled Mars rover still vital in the search for life on the Red Planet
NASA, Russia say space station withdrawal will be gradual
NASA and Russia’s federal space agency Roscosmos emphasized they plan a gradual change in International Space Station operations Thursday (Aug. 4).
Officials from both agencies spoke about Russia’s announcement in July that it will leave the ISS partnership after 2024, which the country has clarified to say that will mean in a gradual and staged fashion. The goal is to put the resources Russia dedicates to the ISS into a new Russian space station later in the 2020s.
“We are looking into projects for the new station, but for now, we are working on extending the [ISS] operation, and we don’t know for how long it is yet,” Sergei Krikalev, the Roscosmos executive director of human spaceflight programs, said during a Crew-5 briefing in Russian; his comments were interpreted on-site into English.
“When there is a technical reason to terminate … we will of course, coordinate with our partners for our interface procedures, to make this as seamless as possible for all program participants,” Krikalev added.
NASA noted that the U.S. government still plans to extend ISS operations to 2030 (legislation on that is pending a presidential signature) and that negotiations with other space station partners are ongoing to keep other agencies in the agreement.
Read more in our coverage of yesterday’s briefing.
Russia announces plans to build own space station
Russia has announced it will withdraw from the International Space Station coalition after 2024 to create a new space station, which may be up and running by the end of the decade.
The timing of that move is uncertain, but Russia wants it to coincide with the arrival of a planned Russian Orbital Service Station (ROSS).
“We need to decide what to do in the future, and already begin work on manned programs that will be implemented after this period,” Roscosmos senior official Vladimir Solovyov said in a lengthy interview (opens in new tab) published on Tuesday (July 26) by the Russian federal space agency, which discussed ROSS in detail.
The first phase of the outpost’s assembly, targeted to begin in 2028, appears to include a core module, a possible new supply ship and a new transport vehicle. A second phase, penciled in for 2030, would add two more large modules.
When asked how the ISS withdrawal might be related to Ukraine’s invasion, which has been condemned by the other major station partners, space historian John Logsdon said the withdrawal is “just one more step in relation to a fraught relationship. Of course,” he continued, the Ukraine invasion “doesn’t help.”
While Dmitry Rogozin, director general of Roscosmos, was abruptly replaced with Yuri Borisov earlier in the month, NASA has emphasized daily ISS operations are largely unaffected. (This despite anti-Ukraine propaganda recently being flown by Russian cosmonauts.)
As an example, agency officials have cited a recent seat swap agreement that will see the first Russian cosmonaut fly on a U.S. commercial spacecraft, in exchange for NASA Soyuz opportunities.
Read more: Russia wants to build its own space station, as early as 2028
Russia launches 1st ISS cargo ship since invasion
Russia on Friday (June 3) launched its first resupply mission to the International Space Station since the country invaded Ukraine, despite repeated claims that its space agency Roscosmos was planning to leave the space station partnership, which is a collaboration of five national space agencies and 15 different countries.
The uncrewed Progress 81 cargo ship lifted off from Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan at 5:32 a.m. EDT (0932 GMT) and will dock at the space station less than four hours later. It is delivering nearly 3 tons of supplies to the station.
NASA officials have repeatedly stated that the International Space Station program is continuing as expected, with Friday’s Progress 81 launch the latest example of steady and ongoing operations by Russia and all program partners. NASA did carry the launch live on NASA TV.
“NASA TV provides operational cover of all International Space Station launches in order to provide transparency and allow mission support personnel to maintain situational awareness necessary for safe and sustained operation of the International Space Station,” NASA spokesperson Sandra Jones said during live commentary.
Here’s a look at other space industry news from Ukraine:
Elon Musk: Russia cyberattacks on Starlink increasing
SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said this week that Russia is increasing its cyberattacks on Starlink terminals in Ukraine.
“Starlink has resisted Russian cyberwar jamming & hacking attempts so far, but they’re ramping up their efforts,” Musk wrote (opens in new tab) on Twitter Tuesday (May 10).
Musk and SpaceX have sent more than 5,000 Starlink terminals to Ukraine with the help of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to help the country stay online and maintain communications amid Russia’s ongoing invasion.
When Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, the country reportedly executed a cyberattack that pulled tens of thousands of modems offline, according to a Reuters report (opens in new tab).
Space Industry for Ukraine group pledges humanitarian aid
In other space news from Ukraine, a new Space Industry for Ukraine group has formed to build support for the besieged nation.
The group includes 18 different space companies, including Rocket Lab, BlackSky, Maxar and others, that have pledged to contribute at least $50,000 each and other services to assist in humanitarian aid work for Ukraine.
“While space-based companies are playing a vital role through collecting and analyzing data of a defense and intelligence nature, we believe there is additional humanitarian value that our space community can provide in supporting the people and government of Ukraine,” said John Serafini, CEO of the geospatial analytics company HawkEye 360, said in a statement (opens in new tab) on April 26.
Europe’s ExoMars rover won’t launch until 2028 now
The European Space Agency’s life-hunting ExoMars rover is now unlikely to launch before 2028 due to a shutdown of space cooperation with Russia over that country’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine.
ESA’s ExoMars rover was scheduled to launch to Mars later this year on a Russian Proton rocket. But European sanctions against Russia led the country to cut access to its rockets to Europe, with ESA also ceasing non-space station cooperation with Russia as well.
Russia’s space agency was due to provide the lander for the ExoMars rover, which will now have to be sourced elsewhere and likely redesigned for launch on a different rocket, ESA officials have said. Those challenges make it unlikely for the mission team to launch ExoMars during windows in 2024 and 2026.
Meanwhile, here’s more space industry news from Russia’s war on Ukraine:
The Ukrainian space sector has shifted to help fight the Russian invasion
For many in Ukraine’s vibrant space sector, life as they knew it stopped on Feb. 24 when Russian tanks rolled into their country. Their aspirations had to be put on hold, their skills and resources redirected to serve their besieged homeland. Among the companies that had to adjust their plans is Kyiv-based startup Lunar Research Service. When the war started, the company was about to ship their first batch of nanosatellites to its Kickstarter backers. But instead, the satellites were taken apart and their components handed over to the military for use in communication equipment and drones.
The company’s 3D printers received new orders. Instead of satellite parts, they are now churning out bits for gun upgrades. Several of the company’s staff members joined Territorial Defense and Cyber Forces.
“Our CAD [Computer-Aided Design] modeling engineer Taras Moshchanskyi sits in the trench with a gun, a Vernier caliper [a tool for precise measurements], and a laptop,” the company’s chief technology officer Dmytro Khmara told Space.com. “In between rotations, he models upgrades for old Soviet AK-74 [assault rifles], which we are printing on our 3D printers.”
Also in Kyiv, aerospace PhD student Ihor suspended his studies at Ukraine’s prestigious Igor Sikorsky Kyiv Polytechnic Institute to volunteer his skills to keep military technology in shape.
“When martial law came into force last month, I was not drafted in the army since I have no military experience,” Ihor told Space.com. “But some of my acquaintances were taken to the army and said that they had big problems with various types of equipment and that there were no people that could fix it. So they recommended me and some of my colleagues to do such repairs.”
Europe halts moon exploration with Russa
The European Space Agency has decided to halt cooperation on moon missions with Russia due to that country’s ongoing war on Ukraine.
ESA officials announced the decision on Wednesday (April 13) after a meeting of its member countries. The decision means a European camera experiment called Pilot D will not fly on Russia’s planned Lunar 25 moon lander, which was to launch later this year.
Europe will also pull out of collaborations on Russia’s planned Lunar 26 lander and the Lunar 27 moon rover, which was expected to use a European-built navigation system and subsurface drill.
Europe is also looking for ways to replace the Ukrainian-built rocket engines used on its Vega rocket amid fears that their manufacturer Yuzhmash in Dnipro, Ukraine, may be unable to to continue to supply the engines.
“We now have sufficient engines for 2022 and 2023,” ESA’s director general Josef Aschbacher said. “We are working on options for 2024 and onwards based on different technologies.”
Meanwhile, there have been other space industry develops from Russia’s war on Ukraine this week.
New satellite photos of Russian military buildup
Satellite imagery provider Maxar has released a new set of images of Ukraine, showing a buildup of Russian military forces in eastern and southern Ukraine.
The images show Russian troop movements along the eastern border of Ukraine, as well as long convoys of military vehicles traversing across the region.
“Together, the convoys contain more than 200 vehicles and include tanks, armored personnel carriers, towed artillery and support equipment,” Maxar representatives said in an emailed statement describing the newly released photos.
How Russia’s GPS satellite jamming works
This week, U.S. Space Force officials revealed that Russia is jamming U.S. GPS signals in Ukraine to diminish the country’s navigation and mapping capabilities.
Russia uses jamming systems based on large trucks and its use in Ukraine now is no surprise. The country has been using similar systems in parts of Ukraine since 2014, as well as during U.S. and NATO exercises.
“We’ve seen them being used while the U.S. and allies of NATO [North Atlantic Treaty Organization] do military exercises up in the north of Norway. Russia will use jamming to interfere with our military exercises, as the northern part of Russia is right there,” Kaitlyn Johnson, deputy director and fellow of the Aerospace Security Project at CSIS, told Space.com in an interview on how Russia’s GPS jamming works.
Ukrainian startup Promin Aerospace’s ‘self-devouring’ rocket
Even as Russia’s war on Ukraine continues, the beseiged country’s space industry is still hard at work.
The space startup Promin Aerospace is continuing its work to develop a new “self-devouring” rocket engine for a planned launch vehicle. The engine is an autophagic design, in which the rocket’s hull is made of solid propellant so that the rocket will consume itself as it launches.
“It is incredibly important for companies with high-tech developments to continue their work during the war,” said Volodymyr Taftay, the head of the State Space Agency of Ukraine. “They are the future of our country and now support its economic front.”
Former astronaut launches NFT to raise funds for Ukraine
Former NASA astronaut Scott Kelly, who spent nearly a year on the International Space Station in 2015 and 2016, launched an NFT today to raise funds to support Ukraine.
Kelly released the NFT, his first, as part of an art project he calls “Dreams Out Of This World,” which features images inspired by his spaceflight drawn as postcards for people to buy. The net proceeds from the sale will go to a nonprofit group Global Empowerment Mission (opens in new tab) aiding Ukraine against Russia’s ongoing invasion.
“I think the metaverse and crypto[currency] and blockchain will be a big part of our future,” Kelly told Space.com. “So it seemed like the right time for me to get involved.”
Kelly has been outspoken against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine since the war began in February. He traded stinging words with Russia’s space agency chief Dmitry Rogozin during that time and also announced he’d give back a Russian spaceflight medal he received for his nearly yearlong mission.
Russia’s space legacy amid war
One side note: Kelly made his NFT announcement today, April 12, which is also known as the International Day of Human Spaceflight. That’s because on this day in 1961, Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin launched into space on the Vostok 1 mission and return to Earth. It was the first human spaceflight. Twenty years later, NASA would launch its first crewed space shuttle Columbia on the same day, making it a day of space anniversaries.
Russia’s legacy in human spaceflight is filled with firsts: Gagarin’s first human spaceflight, the first spacewalk by Alexei Leonov and the first woman in space, Valentina Tereshkova. Russia also built the first space stations in the form of its Salyut spacecraft.
Russia’s ongoing invasion into Ukraine has muted some celebrations of the country’s space feats, but others have found ways to celebrate despite the war by separating the spirit of space exploration from the country’s current actions on Earth.
Russia jamming GPS signals in Ukraine
The U.S. Space Force said Monday (April 11) that Russia is jamming U.S. GPS signals in Ukraine.
Gen. David Thompson, Space Force Vice Chief of Space Operations, told NBC Nightly News that the Ukraine’s ability to use U.S. GPS systems for navigation and mapping are being blocked by Russian jamming efforts.
“Ukraine may not be able to use GPS because there are jammers around that prevent them from receiving any usable signal,” he told NBC Nightly News (opens in new tab).
Thompson said Russia is targeting the American-built Navstar system, which is made available to many countries around the world. Russia has its own GPS system called GLONASS, while Europe uses its own Galileo system and China relies on its own Beidou satellite navigation.
Mass grave in Ukraine spotted by satellite
Maxar Technologies’ WorldView-3 satellite has captured imagery of a mass grave in Bucha, a suburb of the Ukrainian capital Kyiv. The spacecraft snapped a photo showing the grave, with a 45-foot (14 meters) trench, on March 31, 2022. It also took a photo of the area on March 10, which showed what appeared to be the initial excavation of the makeshift grave.
The mass grave, on the grounds of the Church of St. Andrew and Pyervozvannoho All Saints, may contain several hundred bodies, CNN has reported (opens in new tab). Read our story here.
Russian space chief again threatens to pull out of ISS
Dmitry Rogozin, the chief of Roscosmos, Russia’s space program, is again threatening to pull Russia out of the International Space Station program over sanctions imposed against the country over its invasion of Ukraine.
In a series of Twitter posts on Saturday (April 2), Rogozin complained that the sanctions against Russia designed to punish the country for its brutal war on Ukraine are designed to “kill the Russian economy.”
“I believe that the restoration of normal relations between partners in the International Space Station and other joint projects is possible only with the complete and unconditional lifting of illegal sanctions,” he added in another tweet (opens in new tab).
Rogozin is known for his bluster and while he has threatened repeatedly to end Russia’s involvement in the International Space Station, cooperation between Russia and the ISS partners has continued unchanged for the most part.
In other space impact news on Russia’s war on Ukraine, several companies have been keeping close watch on the war using satellites from space.
You can see the latest satellite photos of Ukraine from space in our gallery.
Space tourist takes Ukranian flag to space
A space tourist who launched off the Earth on a Blue Origin rocket on Thursday (March 31) took a small Ukrainian flag to space with him to show support for Ukraine as fights off an invasion by Russia.
Jim Kitchen, a faculty member of the University of North Carolina’s Kenan-Flagler Business School and entrepreneur, launched on a suborbital flight on Blue Origin’s NS-20 New Shepard mission alongside five other passengers. Kitchen, a world traveler, took the small Ukrainian flag and the passport he used to visit the country as part of the flight.
“So in my passport, I brought both the Ukrainian and American flags, and I released them, just paying my respects to the situation that’s occurring there now and just to let them know that our hearts collectively are with them,” Kitchen told Space.com during a call with reporters after Thursday’s flight.
Here’s other space impacts from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine this week:
Ukraine’s space program under E.U.?
As Ukraine’s military battles to defend the country against Russia’s invasion, the country is seeking entry into the European Union, a move that could potentially provide a boost for the country’s space industry.
In an Op-Ed on Space.com today, space reporter Olga Ozhogina with the Ukrainian space startup Promin Aerospace discusses how Ukraine’s space industry could benefit from membership in the E.U.
“As members of the EU, Ukrainians will have the chance to receive grant funding for space projects. European companies will be able to hire Ukrainian workers without bureaucratic obstacles and vice versa, and conduct joint training,” Ozhogina writes.
In related Russia-Ukraine news, here’s the latest that’s occurred in recent days:
6 European space missions need rocket rides
The European Space Agency is scrambling to find rocket rides for at least five new space missions through 2023 after Russia halted all Soyuz rocket flights for Europe in response to severe economic sanctions over the country’s brutal war on Ukraine. Senior Writer Tereza Pultarova has the full story here.
Two of Europe’s Galileo navigation satellites, the Earthcare Earth monitoring satellite, a dark energy detector called Euclid and a French national satellite. A Russian Proton rocket was also scheduled to launch ESA’s ExoMars rover in September. That mission is also off the table after plans for a September 2022 launch evaporated as Russia-Europe space cooperation broke down. The mission is now being evaluated for a 2024 launch (after missing its 2020 launch due to parachute issues) and may have to wait until 2026.
How Russia’s hypersonic missiles work
Russia has deployed hypersonic Kinzhal missiles in its brutal war in Ukraine. The ultrafast and maneuverable weapons are hard to track and shoot down and can have a range of hundreds to thousands of miles.
Our friends at Live Science have taken a look at Russia’s Kinzhal, or “dagger” missiles, which can fly at speeds of at least Mach 5. Here’s what we know so far.
SpaceX to launch OneWeb satellites, not Russia
OneWeb has found a new rocket ride for its internet satellite constellation after Russia suspended its Soyuz rocket launches for the U.K. company and pulled out of a European partnership with Arianespace.
SpaceX Falcon 9 rockets will launch OneWeb’s remaining satellites. You can read the full story from Spaceflight Editor Mike Wall here.
The move is an interesting one for both SpaceX and OneWeb, who are competitors in the satellite internet market. SpaceX is developing its Starlink megaconstellation to provide high-speed broadband around the world, especially in remote or underserved areas. OneWeb’s constellation aims to do the same for different customers.
Russia dismisses controversy over cosmonaut flight suits
Russia’s space agency Roscosmos is scoffing at media reports that discussed possible connections between the yellow and blue flight suits worn by three cosmonauts on the International Space Station and Ukraine.
Cosmonauts Oleg Artemyev, Denis Matveev and Sergey Korsakov wore flight suits that were bright yellow with blue patches, the colors of Ukraine, when they boarded the space station on Friday (March 18) after launching to the orbiting lab on a Russian Soyuz rocket earlier in the day. Some media publications (including Space.com) commented on the striking flight suits and their colors.
On Saturday, Roscosmos denied any connection to Ukraine, stating that the flight suits were made long ago and are in the colors of the Bauman Moscow State Technical University, where all three cosmonauts graduated.
“Sometimes yellow is just yellow,” Roscosmos wrote on Telegram (opens in new tab). “The design of the uniform was agreed upon long before current events.”
Russia uses hypersonic missile in Ukraine attack
Russia has claimed that it used its new Kinzhal hypersonic missile in Ukraine for the first time, marking the ultrafast weapon’s first use in combat. The missile was reportedly used on Friday, March 18, to attack an underground warehouse, according to media reports.
Kinzhal, which means “Dagger” in Russian, is an air-launched missile designed to fly at hypersonic speeds of greater than Mach 5, which is five times the speed of sound and about 3,800 mph (6,100 kph). It is one of several advanced weapons Russia announced in 2018.
The United States, Russia, China and North Korea have all been developing hypersonic weapons due to their speed and maneuverability, which gives them great range and makes them difficult to track and shoot down. Some hypersonic glide weapons are designed to launch on rockets and return to Earth on long glide paths to reach targets around the world.
Russia has reportedly developed one such weapon, a hypersonic incontinental ballistic missile called Avangard.
— Tariq Malik
Russian cosmonauts wear yellow and blue on ISS
Three Russian cosmonauts who launched to the International Space Station on Friday (March 18) donned yellow and blue flight suits when the entered the orbiting lab and joined seven crewmates already aboard once they arrived.
Cosmonauts Oleg Artemyev, Denis Matveev and Sergey Korsakov launched to the station on a Russian Soyuz rocket at 11:55 a.m. EDT on Friday and arrived at the orbiting lab about 3.5 hours later. When they entered the station 2.5 hours later after spacecraft leak checks, they were wearing the brightly colored flight suits that happened to be the same colors as Ukraine’s flag.
It’s unclear if the clothing choice was in support of Ukraine, a school the cosmonauts attended or just a coincidence. But it was definitely noted by former NASA astronauts watching the docking.
“Three Russian cosmonauts who just docked with the ISS arrive in Ukrainian yellow!” former NASA astronaut Scott Kelly, who flew a yearlong mission on the space station with cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko from March 2015 to March 2016, tweeted Friday (opens in new tab), in both Russian and English.
“Wow. Just wow. Well done. За экипаж!” tweeted Terry Virts (opens in new tab), another former NASA astronaut. (“экипаж” is Russian for “crew,” according to Google Translate.)
— Tariq Malik
Russia’s Ukraine invasion affects Mars rover mission
A Russian rocket embargo on European countries that have levied harsh sanctions against Russia over its invasion of Ukraine will keep a Mars rover stuck on Earth until 2026, the European Space Agency said this week.
ESA’s ExoMars rover was scheduled to launch in September on a Russian-built Proton rocket from the Russian-led Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. But ESA halted all science cooperation with Russia after that country invaded Ukraine. Russia’s space agency Roscosmos then said it would repurpose rockets sold to European and commercial customers, negating the planned September launch of the ExoMars rover.
ESA officials are now weighing their options to try and find a new partner to launch the ExoMars rover by 2026. Doing so will require a new non-Russian built landing platform and a new rocket.
Space.com Senior Writer Tereza Pultarova has the full story here.
— Tariq Malik
Astronaut Scott Kelly to stop Twitter spat with Roscosmos
Former NASA astronaut Scott Kelly said this week that he will back off his Twitter spat with Russia’s space agency chief Dmitry Rogozin after receiving a letter from NASA asking its former astronauts to refrain from remarks that could imperil the ongoing U.S.-Russian cooperation on the International Space Station, according to CNN. Space.com contributor Elizabeth Howell has the story.
Kelly has been vocal on Twitter speaking out against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, with Rogozin answering him directly on Twitter and the two exchanging comments back and forth. Kelly’s brother, Senator Mark Kelly (D-Arizona) has also spoken out against Russia’s invasion from his role as a U.S. Senator.
In other news, an American aerospace engineering student is in Kyiv, Ukraine, where he is studying for a Ph.D.
Space.com Senior Writer Tereza Pultarova spoke with Aaron Hartford about why he chose Kyiv to study aerospace engineering, Ukraine’s space history and the challenges facing its space industry.
— Tariq Malik
St. Jude Clinic in Ukraine gets Starlink terminals
St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, which researchers cancer treatments for children, announced Monday that its clinic and foundation partners in Ukraine and Poland have received nine Starlink internet terminals provided by the Polaris Program, a private spaceflight project spearheaded by American billionaire Jared Isaacman.
We are humbled to share 9 @SpaceX Starlink units were donated to our clinic & foundation partners in Ukraine and Poland. These units, coordinated by the @PolarisProgram team, provide critical internet connection to treatment centers supporting Ukrainian patients. pic.twitter.com/mqOJDc4bnyMarch 14, 2022
“We are humbled to share 9 SpaceX Starlink units were donated to our clinic & foundation partners in Ukraine and Poland. These units, coordinated by the Polaris Program team, provide critical internet connection to treatment centers supporting Ukrainian patients,” St. Jude representatives wrote in a Twitter statement.
Isaacman’s Polaris Program is a set of three private spaceflights, all on SpaceX rockets, that will launch Isaacman and other crewmates into Earth orbit. The first mission, called Polaris Dawn, will launch by the end of 2022 and carry a crew of four (with Isaacman as commander). It will also feature the world’s first private spacewalk. A second Polaris mission will follow with the third launching on the first crewed flight of SpaceX’s new Starship rocket for deep-space missions.
Here’s the latest space impacts from the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
- The European Space Agency is meeting this week to discuss the implications of the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine as it relates to ESA space projects. “We are assessing the consequences on each of our ongoing programs conducted in cooperation with the Russian state space agency, Roscosmos” as well as with NASA on the International Space Station, ESA officials wrote in a Feb. 28 statement after the invasion began.
- NASA said Monday that American astronaut Mark Vande Hei will still return to Earth on a Russian Soyuz spacecraft on March 30 despite U.S. tensions with Russia over the invasion. NASA and Russia’s space agency Roscosmos have both said their joint International Space Station operations have continued as normal amid the invasion.
“I can tell you for sure: Mark is coming home on that Soyuz,” Joel Montalbano, the manager of NASA’s International Space Station program, said during a news conference today (March 14). “We are in communication with our Russian colleagues; there’s no fuzz on that.”
- From the Large Hadron Collider to the International Space Station and more, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is having widespread effects on international science. ITER, the world’s largest fusion experiment, the International Science Council and other collaborative projects face challenges.
— Tariq Malik
New satellite photos show artillery firing on Kyiv
New satellite images taken by the WorldView-2 satellite operated by Maxar Technologies has captured views of artillery firing near Kyiv, Ukraine as Russian military forces continue their invasion on that country. Space.com contributor Elizabeth Howell has the full story here.
The new photos were taken on Friday, March 11, and show new views of the fighting and destruction caused by the ongoing war.
Other satellite photos taken on Thursday, March 10, show the impacts of the war across other parts of Ukraine. Destroyed residential buildings and supermarkets were among the civilian targets destroyed in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Two images in particular show views of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, which was taken over by Russian military forces early in the conflict. You can see those images below.
Here’s what else that happened in recent days among the space industry as the effects of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine spread.
Satellite images show damage in Mariupol, Ukraine
New satellite images collected by Maxar Technologies on March 8 and 9 reveal severe damage to civilian structures in the besieged city of Mariupol, Ukraine, as well as the movements of armored vehicles elsewhere in the country.
The new images, released Wednesday by Maxar, were taken by the company’s WorldView 2 and WorldView 3 Earth-observing satellites. Imaging of Ukraine from space has been difficult in recent days due to heavy cloud cover over the region, Maxar officials said.
The satellites observed Mariupol on March 9, revealing damage to grocery stores, residential buildings and other civilian structures, including a maternity ward.
On Tuesday, the WorldView 3 satellite observed the region around Ukraine’s capital of Kyiv, showing the armored vehicles’ movements.
You can see all of the images and read the full story here.
UK bans space exports to Russia
The United Kingdom on Wednesday banned all space-related exports to Russia as it tightened economic sanctions on the country following its invasion of Ukraine last month.
The U.K’s Foreign Secretary Elizabeth Truss announced the space export sanctions alongside a more stringent sanctions related to aviation.
“We will continue to support Ukraine diplomatically, economically and defensively in the face of Putin’s illegal invasion, and work to isolate Russia on the international stage,” Truss said in the statement.
Read the full story here.
NASA astronaut to return Russian spaceflight medal
Former NASA astronaut Scott Kelly said today that he will give back a Russian spaceflight medal he received “For Merit in Space Exploration” in protest of the country’s invasion of Ukraine.
“Mr. Medvedev, I am returning to you the Russian medal ‘For Merit in Space Exploration,’ which you presented to me,” Kelly tweeted on Wednesday (opens in new tab) (in Russian; translation provided by Google). “Please give it to a Russian mother whose son died in this unjust war. I will mail the medal to the Russian embassy in Washington. Good luck.”
He aimed the statement at Dmitry Medvedev, who currently serves as deputy chairman of Russia’s security council and was the nation’s president from 2008 to 2012 and its prime minister from 2012 to 2020.
Kelly has been vocal on Twitter about his opposition to Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine and the country’s ongoing attacks.
Kelly spent nearly a year in space in 2015 and 2016 alongside a Russian cosmonaut as part of a long-duration spaceflight experiment on the International Space Station.
Read the full story here from Spaceflight Editor Mike Wall.
Ukrainian flag headed to space
American billionaire Jared Isaacman and three crewmates will take the Ukrainian flag to space and back later this year on his Polaris Dawn mission, a private spaceflight to be launched by SpaceX, as a show of solidarity with the people of Ukraine.
“We stand with Ukraine and its brave citizens and all those fighting for freedom across the world. The Polaris Dawn crew will take this flag to a place in space that still remains beyond the reach of tyranny,” program officials wrote in a Twitter statement (opens in new tab).
Read the full story here.
Isaacman, who financed last year’s Inspiration4 private spaceflight with SpaceX, has bought three more missions on SpaceX rockets that will launch over the next few years. They include a SpaceX Crew Dragon flight that will include the first-ever private spacewalk by the end of 2022, a second flight on a Dragon capsule and the first crewed flight on SpaceX’s new Starship spacecraft. All three missions are being flown under Isaacman’s Polaris Program.
CERN to stop future collaboration with Russia
The European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), the science agency that oversees the Large Hadron Collider, will not enter into future science collaboration with Russian scientists after a Ukrainian scientists requests a halt to any Russian science cooperation due to that country’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine.
CERN made the announcement today (March 8) after a meeting of the CERN council. You can read the full story by Senior Writer Tereza Pultarova. Ukraine is a associate member of CERN while Russia is not a formal member of the organization.
“The 23 Member States of CERN condemn, in the strongest terms, the military invasion of Ukraine by the Russian Federation, and deplore the resulting loss of life and humanitarian impact,” CERN’s council said in a statement. “Deeply touched by the widespread and tragic consequences of the aggression, the CERN Management and personnel, as well as the scientific community in CERN’s Member States, are working to contribute to the humanitarian effort in Ukraine and to help the Ukrainian community at CERN.”
Russian space chief trades barbs with astronaut Scott Kelly
Dmitry Rogozin, the head of Russia’s Roscosmos space agency, traded Twitter barbs with former NASA astronaut Scott Kelly on Monday (March 7) amid the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Kelly, who spent nearly a year aboard the International Space Station in 2015 and 2016 and returned to Earth on a Russian Soyuz spacecraft, has been a vocal opponent of Russia’s actions in Ukraine. On Sunday (March 6), Kelly tweeted in Russian that the country’s recent covering up of international flags on a Soyuz rocket carrying commercial satellites was harming Russia’s space program.
“Dimon, without those flags and the foreign exchange they bring in, your space program won’t be worth a damn,” Kelly wrote on Twitter. “Maybe you can find a job at McDonald’s if McDonald’s still exists in Russia.”
Rogozin responded with an irate tweet that read: “Get off, you moron! Otherwise the death of the ISS will be on your conscience!” That tweet was soon deleted, and Kelly asked for an explanation. “Dimon, why did you delete this tweet? Don’t want everyone to see what kind of child you are?” Kelly fired back in a tweet on Monday.
Read the full story here.
— Tariq Malik
Димон, ты почему удалил этот твит? Не хочешь, чтобы все увидели, какой ты в сущности ребёнок? pic.twitter.com/xSScT2cSGuMarch 7, 2022
Space partnerships fray amid Russia’s Ukraine invasion
In the days since Russia invaded Ukraine, the effects of the unprovoked attack on Feb. 24 has already reached into space.
A planned launch of a Russian Soyuz rocket on March 4 to deliver 36 OneWeb internet satellites into orbit was canceled after Russia demanded the United Kingdom government, which is a financial backer of OneWeb, divest its holdings in the company and offer assurance the satellites would not be used for military purposes. OneWeb responded by pulling its personnel from the Russian-led Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, where the mission was to launch from. The launch is on hold indefinitely.
Russia’s federal space agency Roscosmos has also halted all Russian Soyuz launches from Europe’s spaceport in French Guiana, which are conducted by the French launch provider Arianespace.
Germany’s space agency DLR has switched off a black hole-hunting instrument on a Russian satellite and halted science cooperation with Russia. DLR officials placed the eROSITA instrument in safe mode. It is riding on the Russian satellite Spectrum-Roentgen-Gamma.
Meanwhile, NASA and Roscosmos have both stated that operation of the International Space Station is continuing as usual. The station is currently home to four American astronauts with NASA, two Russian cosmonauts and one European astronauts. A new Russian crew of three cosmonauts will launch to the station later this month, with American astronaut Mark Vande Hei of NASA and two cosmonauts to return to Earth soon after on a Russian Soyuz spacecraft. — Tariq Malik and Chelsea Gohd
Here’s a roundup of the space impacts of Russia’s Ukraine invasion so far.
- U.S. President Joe Biden stated that U.S. sanctions imposed in response to Russia’s incasion will degrade Russia’s space program.
- Satellite images continue to reveal details about the war and military activity, as it is seen from space.
- A compilation of satellite images.
- Images captured by Planet (formerly Planet Labs).
- A 3D video created from high-resolution images taken by Maxar Technologies’ WorldView-3 satellite.
- Images from Maxar Technologies
- SpaceX CEO Elon Musk sent Starlink satellite internet equipment to Ukraine as Russian attacks damaged infrastructure and connectivity.
- U.S. launch providers are reconsidering how they source their rocket components. For example: Northrop Grumman’s Antares rocket has a Ukrainian-built first stage that’s powered by two Russian-made engines.
- Despite the ongoing conflict, NASA stated that it will continue to work with Russian space agency Roscosmos as a partner on the International Space Station.