A drastic action by Germany left a Russian telescope in the dark
German The government recently announced a massive increase in military spending to counter Russian military action in Europe. The German Aerospace Center (DLR) canceled its bilateral cooperation with Russia following this decision. It looks like the Spektr-RG space telescope, a joint mission between Russia and Germany is the first victim of the canceled partnership.
Germany operates the eROSITA X-ray instrument on Spektr-RG. It is the spacecraft’s primary instrument and performed the first full-sky imaging survey in the mid-energy X-ray range. He studied black holes, the large-scale structure of the Universe, and galactic X-ray sources.
On March 3, DLR issued this statement indicating its position and canceling its cooperation with the Russian space agency Roscosmos:
“As one of the largest research organizations in Europe, the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) is committed to engaging in international cooperation for the benefit of society and the ‘industry. DLR employs staff from 96 countries. They represent the peaceful coexistence of all nations and peoples. Violence should never be a means to achieve any ends. We therefore view developments in Ukraine with deep concern and condemn Russia’s hostile actions.
“DLR and the German DLR Space Agency have cooperated with Russian institutions on a number of research projects, in some cases with the participation of other German research organizations and universities, and international partners.”
“In the context of the aggressive attack on Ukraine, the DLR Board is taking the following actions:
All collaborative activities with Russian institutions on ongoing or planned projects will be discontinued.
There will be no new projects or initiatives with institutions in Russia.
“If necessary, the DLR will enter into coordination with other national and international partners.”
This assertion leaves no room for ambiguity. But there is currently a tense back and forth between Russia and Germany. And between Russia and everyone else.
Roscosmos Director Dmitry Rogozin said: ‘In view of the completely unacceptable actions of our German colleagues, primarily the German Center for Aviation and Astronautics, I have turned off one of the telescopes in our space observatory’ Spektr-RG’, which is located at a distance of 1.5 million kilometers from Earth at the point of La Grange L2. This is an all-civilian international mission to explore the starry sky,” said Rogozin, not noticing the irony of his statement about “an all-civilian international mission” as Russian armed forces kill Ukrainian civilians.
Rogozin also said that Russia has all the essential resources to conduct the experiments on its own. Will the international scientific community care about the results of the investigations? Will any journals publish these results?
Roscosmos continued with a statement on cooperation with Germany on the ISS:
“The state corporation will not cooperate with Germany on joint experiments on the Russian segment of the ISS. Roscosmos will conduct them independently.
Dmitry Rogozin does not come across as a sober individual. On his Twitter account, he makes haphazard threats and mocks people like American astronaut Scott Kelly.
Some of Rogozin’s tweets seem comically incompetent and out of touch. It sounds like a relic from another time.
According to Google Translator, Rogozin’s tweet reads: “Sir Winston Churchill, we will certainly pass your words on to our liberal doves, with chamomile in their beaks, calling for peace on the terms of the West and Bandera.”
Germany is not the only entity to end its cooperative space activities with Russia. OneWeb, a satellite communications company in the UK, also canceled its working agreement with Roscosmos. OneWeb launches a constellation of more than 600 communications satellites on Russian rockets at Baikonur Cosmodrome.
OneWeb issued this terse statement on March 3: “The OneWeb Board of Directors has voted to suspend all launches from Baikonur.” Nor is there room for ambiguity in this statement.
Roscosmos director Rogozin responded to the news on Twitter:
Google Translator: “By the end of the year, dozens of Russian private spacecraft for communication, weather observation and Earth remote sensing will be sent into orbit. For this, the Soyuz-2 carrier rockets, which we derived from the launch project of the British satellite system OneWeb, will be used.
The Russian government, including Roscosmos, seems caught off guard by these responses to their attack on Ukraine. They don’t seem to understand the enormity of what they’ve done, and it seems they didn’t anticipate the scientific and spatial fallout from their invasion. And if Rogozin’s comments are any indication, it seems they may never understand.
But Germany yes.
Germany knows the sting of abject military defeat more than any other country in Europe. They know how terrible leaders can bring ruin to their societies and how they can cause millions of innocent deaths. They had a terrible leader who dragged the whole continent into war and left many cities in ruins. Now they can look at a few countries and see the same thing happen. Or quite close to the same.
So now the DLR has canceled its scientific relationship with Russia and cast doubt on the future of the Spektr-RG mission. There are about four years left on this mission and eROSITA has completed four of its planned eight sky surveys. The mission cost around $600 million, and it is unclear if the mission will be accomplished or if it can be adequately accomplished without the German expertise. The Principal Investigator of eROSITA is Peter Predehl, Principal Investigator at the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics.
By canceling their involvement in Spektr-RG, Germany will not cause Russia any pain. This could harm Russia’s prestige and set back our scientific understanding of the Universe a little. But it certainly signals intent.
Germany also seems determined to prepare militarily. When a country with a large high-tech economy starts spending large sums on its military, while staring Russia in the eye, then Russia must take notice. Russia, or rather Vladimir Putin, must see that the post-Cold War rules of the game have changed and Germany has decided it has no choice.
What else is Germany supposed to do? Play well?
As it stands, a canceled X-ray sky survey seems insignificant.