8:30 p.m. ET Friday update: The Kremlin made it official in a short communiqué– Dmitry Rogozin has resigned as general director of the country’s state space company, Roscosmos. The decree is effective immediately. Former Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Borisov will replace Rogozin.
The moves come amid a significant shakeup in leadership positions in Russia nearly five months after the country invaded Ukraine. Borisov has taken the same route to Roskosmos as Rogozin, a demotion. Both men served as deputy prime ministers for Russia’s space and defense industries before being posted to Roscosmos. It is not clear where Rogozin will end up.
This ends Rogozin’s tumultuous career at Roscosmos, where he has worked directly with the heads of other international space agencies, including NASA and other International Space Station partners such as Europe, Canada and Japan. Since the invasion of Ukraine, Rogozin has become increasingly belligerent and has made numerous threats of Russian involvement in the station. While most of these threats have remained hollow, they have damaged industrial relations with the West.
It is not known how Borisov will behave towards NASA and its other partners on the space station.
Original post: Rumors are circulating on Russian social media networks and selected publications that the bombastic general director of Roskosmos, Dmitry Rogozin, will soon lose his position.
The Interfax news agency reports that Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Borisov, who oversees Russia’s space and defense industries, could be promoted to the leadership of Roskosmos. Separately, telegram channels have quoted other media making similar claims about Borisov and Rogozin.
To be clear, these remain rumours. And this isn’t the first time speculation has intensified over the future of Rogozin, who four years ago took command of Roscosmos — a sprawling state-owned company responsible for the vast majority of Russia’s space activities. His tenure was troubled and controversial, during which the reliability and launch rate of Russian spacecraft declined alongside heated and destructive rhetoric.
The renewed speculation comes as Rogozin has continued to cut ties and aggressively speak out about the United States, Europe and other space partners that have supported Ukraine in the months since Russia invaded that country.
Here is an abridged list of the controversies Rogozin has been embroiled in with Western officials in the last week alone:
- July 7: NASA took the extremely rare step of publicly criticizing Roscosmos after using the International Space Station for propaganda purposes to support breakaway regions of Ukraine. “NASA strongly censures Russia for using the International Space Station for political purposes to support its war against Ukraine,” the space agency said. The European and Canadian space agencies also joined the criticism.
- July 11: The Russian publication Aviation Explorer reported that Rogozin refused to take a call from NASA Administrator Bill Nelson after the ISS propaganda incident. “There is nothing to discuss. Let the sanctions be lifted first,” Rogozin reportedly said.
- July 12: Rogozin mocks US President Joe Biden on his Telegram channel after NASA unveiled the first photograph from the James Webb Space Telescope in a White House ceremony. Rogozin said Biden needed a large magnifying glass and took a long time to use the toilet.
- July 12: The European Space Agency said it is “officially” termination of work with Russia on the ExoMars probe to land on Mars. Rogozin replied with an angry message on this telegram accountESA boss Josef Aschbacher an “irresponsible bureaucrat”.
- July 12: Rogozin, in an exchange of blows, threatened to end Russian cooperation on the deployment of a new European robotic arm on the space station. Developed by several European countries for ESA, this arm will be brought to the Russian segment of the space station in July 2021. Rogozin’s comment raised questions about whether a spacewalk scheduled for next week would work on Roscosmos cosmonaut Oleg Artemyev’s robotic arm, and ESA astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti, would continue.
Relations between Russia and its Western partners in space have deteriorated significantly since the Russian invasion of Ukraine. However, NASA and its western partners have attempted to maintain a professional arrangement with Russia’s civilian space operators to ensure the safe flight of the International Space Station. They did so despite Rogozin’s provocations.
But Rogozin’s behavior seems to be getting worse and worse. Rogozin’s recent actions suggest he is increasingly unhinged, isolated, distressed or a combination thereof as rumors about his future circulate.
Meanwhile, NASA and Roscosmos continue to work on a possible “seat swap” in September, which will see a NASA astronaut, Frank Rubio, fly on a Soyuz spacecraft and a first-time Russian cosmonaut, Anna Kikina, on SpaceX’s Crew Dragon would spacecraft. A final decision needs to be made in the next few weeks, and given Roscosmos’ turbulent leadership, things can’t be easy for NASA.
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