The Commerce Department last month announced that is increasing the level of sanctions against trade with Russia because it had determined that country had violated international law by using chemical weapons against specific dissidents both in and out of Russia.
On March 4, 2018, the Russia Government deployed a Novichok nerve agent in an attack against former Russian military officer Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia Skripal in the United Kingdom. In response, the U.S. Government imposed two sets of sanctions against Russia pursuant to the Chemical and Biological Weapons Control and Warfare Elimination Act of 1991 (CBW Act) in August 2018 and August 2019.
On August 20, 2020, the Russian Government again deployed a Novichok nerve agent, this time against Russian opposition figure Aleksey Navalny, warranting a new determination by the Secretary of State and additional sanctions under the CBW Act.
While this ruling will have a negative impact on any space-related U.S./Russian activities, the full ruling specifically included these waivers:
Commercial Space Flight: The waiver covers exports and reexports to Russia of national security-controlled items in support of commercial space launch activities. License applications for such transactions will be reviewed consistent with the export licensing policy for Russia prior to the date of this document until September 1, 2021, after which date this waiver provision will expire and license applications will be reviewed under a presumption of denial.
Government Space Flight: The waiver covers exports and reexports to Russia of national security-controlled items subject to the EAR in support of government space cooperation. License applications for such transactions will be reviewed consistent with the export licensing policy for Russia prior to the date of this document.
It appears that the U.S./Russian partnership at ISS will go on with no change. For commercial space, business will remain unchanged only until September 1st. Until then any commercial deals with Russia will be grandfathered in. After that date however any commercial space deals will require permission from the government, which will likely cause delays and increased costs, even if approved.
The biggest impact to Russia and commercial space will likely be felt by the smallsat industry and Russia’s Soyuz-2 rocket. Roscosmos had formed a new subsidiary dubbed GK Launch Services to market that rocket to those satellite manufacturers, resulting in the recent launch of 39 such satellites on a single rocket in late March. This ruling will likely block such sales to any company with ties to the U.S.
This ruling might therefore also affect the OneWeb satellite constellation, since a large number of its satellites are being launched by Soyuz. Though the company is owned jointly by a company in India and the government of the United Kingdom, OneWeb satellites are built in the U.S. This ruling could seriously delay future launches of those satellites, which would in turn delay the inauguration of that constellation. That in turn will benefit OneWeb’s competitors, especially SpaceX’s Starlink constellation.
Hat tip Parabolic Arc for spotting this ruling.
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