Collaboration endangered

What the war on Ukraine means for space flight: A look at halted collaboration and the situation on the ISS.

ISS space station: Successful example of international collaboration
ISS space station: Successful example of international collaboration aapsky - stock.adobe.com

It is in fact a huge success story: collaboration transcending borders has decisively advanced international space flight over the past decades. But the Russian invasion of Ukraine is casting doubt on many aspects in this area.

How is the war impacting German-Russian aerospace collaboration?

The German Aerospace Center (DLR) has expressed its clear position: “There are colleagues from 96 countries working with the DLR. They stand for the peaceful coexistence of all nations and peoples. We clearly affirm: Violence cannot be a means for asserting aims of any kind whatsoever. This is why we view the developments in Ukraine with profound concern and condemn Russia’s military aggression,” the DLR said in a statement at the beginning of March 2022, just a few days after Russia launched its attack on Ukraine. As a consequence the DLR stopped its collaboration with Russian institutions, both on current projects and those in the planning phase. The European Space Agency also reacted by halting its collaboration with Russia in missions dedicated to research on the moon and mars.

What effects will the Russian war on Ukraine have on the international space station ISS?

In the most prominent example of international aerospace collaboration, the ISS international space station, there is also a threat of the partnership collapsing. The loss of mutual research results would be serious both for Russia and for long-term partners, such as Germany. Russia has also reserved the right to disconnect its module from the ISS. At the moment the ISS is still orbiting without repercussions from the conflicts on earth. Last week the German astronaut Matthias Maurer was able to complete his mission with the ISS as planned, before he returned to earth in early May. Talking about the conversations he had with his Russian colleagues on the ISS, he said: “Up there we were in complete agreement that we were all shocked and concerned about what had happened on earth. There were no differences between us at all.”

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