The European Space Agency’s decision to replace Russian launch vehicles with those made in the US was forced upon Europeans by their big “ally,” a Russian cosmonaut has said, noting that the US was jealous of the cooperation.
Rene Pischel, head of ESA’s permanent office in Moscow, announced this week that Italian astronaut Luka Parmitano might be the last European to have travelled to space in the famed Soyuz MS-13 Russian launch vehicle, at least for the foreseeable future. Parmitano has been at the International Space Station (ISS) since July.
In the coming years the ESA would be switching to US spacecraft for the mission, Pischel said, noting that the arrangement had been made necessary by the contractual obligations existing between the ESA and NASA.
Russian cosmonaut Pavel Vinogradov told the website 360tv.ru that the ESA decision is a result of an ongoing pressure campaign by Washington.
As soon as Americans order something, everything is being done accordingly. Americans have always been extremely concerned about our very good relationship and work with the French and the Germans. They have been doing their best to destroy this cooperation
Vinogradov said that he does not believe that the ESA’s move would deal a blow to the Russian space industry, as many countries outside Europe are still keen on sending their men to space aboard a Soyuz so they can join an ever-expanding group of countries who already had done this.
For instance, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is planning to send its first astronaut aboard a Soyuz rocket in September.
“This is not the preference of American launches, it is the US pressuring its allies, that’s all,” the cosmonaut said.
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Earlier this year, the Pentagon forbid US companies from relying on Russian space rocket launches and satellite services starting in 2023, a decision which the Russian space agency, Roscosmos, blasted as yet another example of “unfair competition.”
Since the US Space Shuttle program was shut down in 2011, the Soyuz has been the only way for anyone in the world, including NASA, to reach the ISS. Washington has since sought to end its dependence on Russia for space exploration, but the quest has been unsuccessful so far. SpaceX and Boeing were to deliver their replacement crew vehicles in 2017, but both their spacecraft are still in the testing phase.
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