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EU reacts as Russia severs rocket-launch relationship

Russia’s space agency Roscosmos is suspending cooperation with Europe on space launches from the Kourou spaceport in French Guiana, including future Galileo satellite launches.

As reported by Rueters, Roscosmos chief Dmitry Rogozin said Saturday the action is in response to Western sanctions over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“In response to EU sanctions against our companies, Roscosmos is suspending cooperation with European partners on space launches from Kourou, and is withdrawing its technical staff…from French Guiana,” Rogozin said in a post on his Telegram channel.

Russia’s decision will have “no consequences on the continuity and quality of Galileo and Copernicus services,” EU Commissioner Thierry Breton said in a statement. “This decision does not call into question the continuity of the development of these infrastructures either.”

“We are also ready to act with determination, together with the Member States, to protect these critical infrastructures in the event of an attack.”

“We will, in due course, take all the necessary decisions in response and resolutely pursue the development of the second generation of these two sovereign space infrastructures of the Union,” Breton said. “We are also prepared to act determinedly together with the member states to protect these critical infrastructures in case of an attack, and to continue the development of Ariane 6 and VegaC to guarantee the strategic autonomy with regard to carrier rockets.”

The Galileo program had already planned to shift to using Ariane 6 rockets for satellite launches. The launcher is undergoing the final stages of development, led by prime contractor ArianeGroup.

From 2023 onward, the remaining Galileo Batch 3 satellites will be launched with the new Ariane 62 launch vehicle, a variant of Ariane 6 with two strap-on solid boosters.

The most recent Galileo satellite launch took place on Dec. 5, 2021, using Soyuz launcher VS-26 to carry the first pair of Galileo Batch 3 satellites into orbit. The announcement will delay a Soyuz launch of two more Galileo satellites scheduled for April from French Guiana; a third pair of Galileo satellites was scheduled to launch in autumn on another Soyuz.

Galileo launch 11 from Europe’s spaceport in French Guyana. (Photo: ESA/CNES/Arianespace)

Galileo launch 11 from Europe’s spaceport in French Guyana. (Photo: ESA/CNES/Arianespace)

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