Putin horror as rocket launched into space with military payload after NASA spat

Simon Calder says 'space debris' could disrupt air travel in Europe

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The vessel has been developed for Russia’s defence ministry, according to state media outlet TASS. A Soyuz-2.1v, the rocket launched from the Ministry of Defence’s Plesetsk Cosmodrome today (August 1), TASS said.

The outlet, quoting a Kremlin statement, said: “The Soyuz-2.1v space rocket, which launched at 23:25 [Moscow time] from the Plesetsk state test cosmodrome, was accepted for escort by ground means of the Main Test Space Centre named after G.S. Titov of the Space Forces Air -Space Forces.”

It added that an upper section of the rocket with a military satellite separated from the second stage of the Soyuz-2.1v, putting it into orbit.

Russia’s Ministry of Defence noted in its statement that Soyuz-2 space rocket system flight tests began at Plesetsk in November 2004, replacing the Soyuz-U, which operated from the cosmodrome from 1973 to 2012.

A total of 435 Soyuz-U launches took place from Plesetsk with 430 spacecraft put into orbit.

It comes after Russian space officials told counterparts in the US Moscow would like to keep flying its cosmonauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS) until their own orbital outpost is built and operational.

The latest indications are Russia is at least six years away from ending an orbital collaboration with the US which dates back more than 20 years.

A schism in the ISS program seemed closer at hand last week, when Yuri Borisov – the newly appointed director-general of Russia’s space agency Roscosmos – surprised NASA by announcing Moscow intended to withdraw from the space station partnership “after 2024.”

Kathy Lueders, NASA’s space operations chief, said in an interview Russian officials later told the US space agency that Roscosmos wanted to remain in the partnership as Russia works to get its planned orbital outpost, named ROSS, up and running.

Ms Lueders said: “We’re not getting any indication at any working level that anything’s changed.”

The space station, a science lab spanning the size of a football field and orbiting some 250 miles above Earth, has been continuously occupied for more than two decades under a US-Russian-led partnership which includes Canada, Japan and 11 European countries.

It offers one of the last vestiges of cooperation between the United States and Russia, though its fate has been called into question since Russia invaded Ukraine in February.

The Ukraine conflict also sparked tensions between Roscosmos and the European Space Agency (ESA).

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A formal agreement to extend Russia’s ISS participation beyond 2024 has not yet been reached.

Ms Lueders said NASA, Roscosmos, ESA and the station’s other partners planned to discuss the prospect of extending each other’s presence on the laboratory to 2030 during a meeting on Friday of the board that oversees the station’s management.

Vladimir Solovyov, the flight director for the space station’s Russian segment, said: “We, of course, need to continue operating the ISS until we create a more or less tangible backlog for ROSS.

“We must take into account that if we stop manned flights for several years, then it will be very difficult to restore what has been achieved.”

Russia’s Soyuz-2.1v launch comes after The China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC) launched a trio of Yaogan 35 military reconnaissance satellites to orbit last Friday.

The Chinese space program has launched 27 orbital missions so far this year, with 26 successes and one failure.

Only the United States has conducted more orbital launches this year, according to NASA.

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