The New Cold War Threatens the International Space Station and will kill the Atlas Rocket

Russia cast doubt on the long-term future of the International Space Station, a showcase of post-Cold War cooperation, as it retaliated on Tuesday against U.S. sanctions over Ukraine.

Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said Moscow would reject a U.S. request to prolong the orbiting station’s use beyond 2020. It will also bar Washington from using Russian-made rocket engines to launch military satellites, and suspend the operation of GPS satellite navigation system sites on its territory.

Washington wants to keep the 15-nation space station project in use until at least 2024, four years beyond the previous target.

Moscow’s plan to part ways on a project that was supposed to end the Space Race underlines how relations between the former Cold War rivals have deteriorated since Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimea region in March.

Since the end of the U.S. space shuttle project, Russian Soyuz spacecraft have provided the only means to transport astronauts to and from the space station. NASA is working with several U.S. companies to develop a new generation of space taxis, but those spacecraft aren’t due to start flying until 2017.

Until that time, NASA has to pay Russia more than $60 million per seat for flights to the station. Last month, Rogozin quipped that NASA might have to start “using a trampoline” to send its astronauts into orbit.

Rogozin said Moscow was planning “strategic changes” in its space industry after 2020 and aims to use money and “intellectual resources” that now go to the space station for “a project with more prospects.”

He said the space station could not survive without Russian participation. “The Russian segment can exist independently from the American one,” Rogozin said. “The U.S. one cannot.”

The Russian segment houses the station’s propulsion system, but the station’s main solar arrays and communication links are controlled from the U.S. segment.

Rogozin said Russia will suspend the operation of 11 GPS sites on its territory beginning in June, and seek talks with Washington on opening similar sites in the United States for Russia’s own satellite navigation system, known as Glonass.

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