ESA suspends ExoMars 2022 rover launch amid Russian invasion of Ukraine

The joint ESA and Russian Martian mission was expected to launch this year, but due to sanctions brought on by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, ESA has decided to suspend its cooperation.

After a meeting of the ESA Council, it voted unanimously to suspend cooperation with Roscosmos, who was in charge of launching the rover and supplying its descent stage. This decision was made to abide by the existing sanctions against Russia.

As an intergovernmental organisation mandated to develop and implement space programmes in full respect with European values, we deeply deplore the human casualties and tragic consequences of the aggression towards Ukraine. While recognising the impact on scientific exploration of space, ESA is fully aligned with the sanctions imposed on Russia by its Member States.

ESA via Press Release

ExoMars 2022 is the planned successor of ESA’s 2016 mission of the same name. The duel mission would have sent both an orbiter and rover to the Red Planet, originally by 2023, but now the next window will open no earlier than 2024.

Russia’s involvement came in providing the launcher and lander for the mission. ExoMars is supposed to use the Russian-made Proton launcher and launch from Baikonur Cosmodrome, then land using the Kazachok lander. Both were provided as contributions by Roscosmos. However, since Russia invaded Ukraine, countries have begun to distance and sanction the country, including OneWeb’s halting of launches from Kazakstan. Roscosmos has also ceased supporting foreign companies that use Russian rockets or engines.

The future of the next ExoMars mission is a mystery, especially if ESA will need to find a replacement to Russia’s lander. However, Roscosmos looks to be moving forward with building a Martian lander of its own, based on what it built for ExoMars per a Telegram post, Director-General Dimitry Rogozin posted:

This means that in September 2022 the joint Russian-European mission to Mars has been cancelled. The work of thousands of specialists is crossed out by one piece of paper with the signature of some regular European bureaucrat. It’s a pity.
Yes, we will lose several years, but we will repeat our lander, provide it with the Angara launch vehicle, and conduct this research expedition on our own from the new launch complex of the Vostochny cosmodrome.

Roscosmos Directer-General Dimitry Rogozin, via Telegram post (translated using Google Translate)

It is important to note that statements made by Rogozin on social media and what Roscosmos does are not entirely related. Whether or not the Russia-European cooperation is finished permanently is yet to be known.

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