Dmitry Rogozin
The US-Russia space partnership is complicated. Here's why
03:41 - Source: CNNBusiness

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Despite threatening to pull Russia out of the International Space Station prematurely, the head of the country’s space agency is now promising to remain NASA’s partner at least until the orbiting outpost is eventually retired.

“This is a family, where a divorce within a station is not possible,” Dmitry Rogozin told CNN in his first interview with western media since becoming Roscosmos’ director general.

Divorce certainly seemed possible in June when Rogozin made headlines for threatening to withdraw from the station unless US sanctions on Russia’s space sector were lifted. Rogozin is also under personal US sanctions for his role as Russia’s deputy prime minister of defense during his country’s 2014 annexation of Crimea from Ukraine.

Dmitry Rogozin, Roscosmos director general, is shown during the launch of a Soyuz-2.1b carrier rocket at Vostochny Cosmodrome, in Amur region, Russia.

“Either we are working together and then sanctions should be lifted immediately, or we won’t work together” and Russia will deploy its own space station, said Rogozin in June, according to Russian state-owned media TASS.

Now Rogozin appears to deny ever making those threats in front of Russia’s lower house of parliament.

“I think there is a problem in interpretation. I, most likely, did not say that,” Rogozin told CNN, speaking Russian. His words were translated by an interpreter hired by CNN.

“It’s just that we’re talking about how we can continue our comradery, our friendly relations with our American partners, when the US government is implementing the sanctions against the very same organizations which supply the International Space Station.”

Another test for the US-Russia space partnership

It’s a relationship that’s being tested politically and in orbit.

In July, Russia’s newly docked Nauka module accidentally fired its thrusters, spinning the space station out of control. At the time, three NASA astronauts, two Russian cosmonauts, a Japanese astronaut and an astronaut with the European Space Agency were on board. Rogozin admits “we did have a problem,” and he blames it on human error.

The Nauka module is seen prior to docking with the International Space Station on July 29 in a photo taken by Russian cosmonaut Oleg Novitsky and provided by Roscosmos.

“The equipment does not break down on its own,” Rogozin said. “For 21 years, we have not done anything like this. An older generation, who knew how to dock a complex structure like this, has retired.”