Russia’s missions to explore cosmos held back by mixture of Western sanctions and Covid-19 pandemic, country’s space agency warns

Russia’s missions to explore cosmos held back by mixture of Western sanctions and Covid-19 pandemic, country’s space agency warns

Russian rockets and satellites are facing fresh setbacks to getting off the ground, one of Moscow’s top space agency bosses has warned, citing the coronavirus crisis and a series of restrictions imposed on the country from abroad.

Speaking to TASS on Thursday, Maxim Ovchinnikov, the first deputy director of Roscosmos charged with overseeing the organization’s with a more than $2 billion budget, warned that a lack of supplies and logistical hurdles had grounded a number of launches.

“The coronavirus pandemic, slimmer resources to support our activities, and sanctions on buying components for rocket and space equipment have all had a negative impact on delivering our work,” he said.

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Last year, Russia reported that most of its space programs had fallen short of their targets. The Federal Space Programme is currently only 55% towards meeting its goals for 2016-2025 and, while Moscow’s GLONASS satellite development system is 80% complete, a Russian Cosmodrome infrastructure revamp scheme has come on by only 30% over that period.

News of the challenges comes just days after Russian President Vladimir Putin expressed concerns about the future of the country’s space exploration schemes. Earlier this week, he hit out at his government over delays in setting out a clear road map to strengthen Roscosmos, which should have been put forward and approved by August 30. Putin said the setback put future plans for the development of the industry at risk.

Back in June of this year, Russia threatened to withdraw its involvement in the International Space Station if the US did not pull back on sanctions it said were stifling Russian cosmic efforts and targeted even the building housing the joint mission’s control center. The sanctions also meant Russia could not import a set of microchips understood to be essential in some of the final stages of assembling spacecraft for launch.

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“We have more than enough rockets but nothing to launch them with,” Dmitry Rogozin, head of Roscosmos, said at the time.

In January, it was recorded that Russia had around 176 satellites orbiting in space, compared to China’s 412 and the United States’ whopping 1,897. However, despite its role in the global space race being hampered by both sanctions and the pandemic’s impact, Ovchinnikov said the country had avoided having to carry out more satellite launches than necessary as there was less “operational necessity, due to the reliability of the devices.”

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