NASA and Roscosmos prepare for joint launch

NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy and Russian cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner will today blast off to the International Space

kazakhstan launch 1

Photo: NASA/Joel Kowsky

NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy and Russian cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner will today blast off to the International Space Station (ISS) from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on a Soyuz MS-16 spacecraft.

They will join the station’s three-person crew for more than seven days of joint operations, after which Cassidy will relieve current ISS commander Oleg Skripochka.

The creation of a new “Space Force” branch to its military is demonstrative of Washington’s turn to outer space as a re-emerging component of international politics. US President Donald Trump signed an executive order on Monday asserting an American right to engage in “commercial exploration, recovery and use of resources in outer space.” The Kremlin responded by saying it is “unacceptable” for the US to unilaterally privatise space.

One indicator of US policy on the future of the final frontier could come from the fate of the Space Force. An unwillingness from Congress to fund the ambitious project could see the new military branch’s absorption into the Air Force or potentially its dissolution altogether. On the other hand, continued US assertions that space is not a global commons could lead to brewing political tensions on Earth between Moscow and Washington, especially if the former considers creating its own space command to rival that of the US.

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