• 05.16.14

Science Wars: U.S. And Russia Spar Over Space Stations And GPS

The Ukraine crisis is leaking into the scientific and technological sphere.

Science Wars: U.S. And Russia Spar Over Space Stations And GPS
[Image: International Space Station via Shutterstock]

In a speech earlier this week, Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister threatened to stop using the International Space Station (ISS) after 2020. Although American supply ships restock the ISS, the only way humans have been able to reach the space station since 2012 has been by Russian spacecraft. Right now, the U.S. pays Russia $60 million for each person transported to the ISS and the American government has been campaigning to use the space station until 2024.


That isn’t the only scientific casualty of the Ukraine crisis, either: Russia also announced they would no longer allow American GPS bases to be stationed on Russian territory.

Russian deputy prime minister Dmitry Rogozin, who was recently hit with U.S. sanctions in retaliation for Russia’s annexation of the Crimea, reportedly said American access to the ISS would not be extended past 2020.

He added that, “I propose the United States delivers its astronauts to the ISS with the help of a trampoline.“ Rogozin’s also threatened to discontinue American access to several GPS ground stations located throughout Russian territory if America refused to set up transmitters for Russia’s rival GLONASS system.

Rogozin’s threat to stop GPS satellite signal receivers in Russia from working is tied up in American military history. GPS, which stands for Global Positioning System, was originally developed by America’s Department of Defense and is still operated and funded by the Pentagon. GLONASS is a rival system originally developed by the Soviet Union; America’s intelligence agencies and the Defense Department have reportedly been lobbying to forbid Russia from building GLONASS monitoring systems domestically. Unnamed military sources told the New York Times that they fear the monitoring stations could help Russian weapons target the United States more accurately or be spy bases.

NASA, for its part, says that it hasn’t received word from Russia that the organization’s access to the ISS is being revoked. Three crew members from the ISS landed on Earth earlier this week in Kazakhstan. The returning crew members included both American Rick Mastracchio and Russian Mikhail Tyurin.

According to an English-language translation published by television network RT, which enjoys close ties to the Kremlin, Rogozin added that, “We currently project that we’ll require the ISS until 2020. We need to understand how much profit we’re making by using the station, calculate all the expenses and depending on the results decide what to do next.”

The ISS, which first went into space in 1998, is expected to be operable until roughly 2028. For the past few years, Russia’s space agency has been promoting a replacement space station called OPSEK (Orbital Manned Assembly and Experiment Complex in Russian). The new space station would be built in space, using a core of components currently in the Russian sections of the ISS.