Russia Says NASA Can Use 'Broomsticks' After Stopping Rocket Engine Sales

The head of Russia's space agency has suggested American astronauts use "broomsticks" to get into orbit after it halted the supply of rocket engines to the United States.

Dmitry Rogozin, CEO of Roscosmos, made the remarks in an interview on the Rossiya-24 TV network, saying the decision was a response to the sanctions levied by the U.S. after Moscow's invasion of Ukraine.

"In this situation, we can no longer supply the U.S. with our rocket engines that are the best in the world. Let them fly on something else, like their brooms, or whatever," Rogozin said, according to the Interfax news agency. "But at least we are freezing our shipments."

According to the Roscosmos head, Russia has delivered 122 RD-180 engines to the U.S. since the 1990s, of which 98 have been used to power Atlas launch vehicles.

Rogozin also told Rossiya-24 that Russia would stop working with Germany on joint experiments on the International Space Station because of the European country's "unacceptable actions," according to the TASS news agency.

His latest interview follows the announcement that Roscosmos is suspending cooperation with the European Space Agency on launches from the spaceport in French Guiana, in retaliation for the sanctions imposed by the European Union.

The EU commissioner for space, Thierry Breton, downplayed the significance of the Russian move, saying it would not have consequences for Galileo, the ESA's satellite navigation system, or Copernicus, its Earth observation project.

"We will take all relevant decisions in response to this decision in due course and continue developing resolutely the second generation of these two EU sovereign space infrastructures," Breton said in a statement.

"We are ready to act decisively, together with the member states, to protect these critical infrastructures in case of aggression, and continue to develop Ariane 6 and VegaC to ensure Europe's strategic autonomy in the area of launchers."

In London, the U.K. government has rejected an ultimatum from Russia to sell its share in space-based internet service OneWeb in order to allow a satellite launch to go ahead.

OneWeb has been preparing to launch 36 satellites into a low-Earth orbit from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on a Soyuz rocket.

Roscomos sought assurances that the rocket would not be used for military purposes, before declaring that it would not allow the Russian-owned cosmodrome to launch the satellites unless the U.K. sold its stake in OneWeb.

Britain's business secretary, Kwasi Kwarteng, said no sale would take place. "There's no negotiation on OneWeb: the U.K. government is not selling its share," he tweeted on March 2. "We are in touch with other shareholders to discuss next steps."

Newsweek has contacted NASA for comment.

Dmitry Rogozin broomsticks
President Vladimir Putin (C) and Dmitry Rogozin (R) visit at the Cosmos pavilion space industry exhibition in Moscow on April 12, 2018. Rogozin, the head of Russia's space agency, says it will stop supplying rocket engines to the U.S. Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images