The Kremlin announced Friday the ouster of Dmitry Rogozin, the controversial, anti-West head of its Roscosmos space agency, on the same day Roscosmos struck a partnership with NASA enabling astronauts from each agency to hitch rides on the other’s spacecraft.
Russia said Yuri Borisov, the country’s deputy prime minister, will replace Rogozin, Roscosmos’ director since 2018.
Shortly after news dropped of Rogozin’s departure, Roscosmos announced a seat barter agreement with NASA that paves the way for NASA astronauts to ride on Russian spacecraft, and vice versa, to and from the International Space Station, according to Reuters.
The timing of Rogozin’s dismissal is uncanny given his constant threats against the West: he suggested earlier this year Russia could easily destroy NATO countries with nuclear weapons and said in April he planned to pull Russia from the ISS over sanctions placed on Russia following its invasion of Ukraine.
Roscosmos said the NASA partnership will allow for the “exploration of outer space for peaceful purposes,” Reuters reports.
The NASA and Roscosmos ride-sharing agreement is the latest step in a long history of collaboration between the American and Russian space programs even as the two countries butt heads politically. Dana Weigel, NASA’s ISS deputy program manager, said Wednesday the deal was “pretty close” to completion. Russian spacecraft have been the only way to the ISS since 2011, when NASA conducted its last launch to the ISS. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has sparked an unusual amount of tension between the agencies, and NASA issued a rare condemnation of Roscosmos earlier this month after photographs circulated of Russian cosmonauts celebrating Russia taking control of eastern Ukraine’s Luhansk region while aboard the ISS. In March, NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei returned to earth from the ISS on a Russian Soyuz spacecraft – despite Rogozin threatening to abandon Vande Hei in space in protest of sanctions.
In May, Rogozin became entangled with the world’s wealthiest man Elon Musk. According to Musk, Rogozin said in a note to Russian media Musk “should be held accountable” for supplying Ukraine with Starlink internet terminals from his company SpaceX. Musk tweeted in response: “If I die under mysterious circumstances, it’s been nice knowin ya.”