Russia says it will operate a German telescope against Germany’s wishes

After infamous Roscosmos chief Dmitry Rogozin labeled German space officials as 'pro-fascists'.
Chris Young
An artist's render of the Spektr-RG spacecraft.DLR/YouTube

The Russian-German Spektrum-Röntgen-Gamma space observatory was put into safe mode following Germany's decision to halt collaboration with Russia after its invasion of Ukraine.

Now, Russia's space agency, Roscosmos, says it will turn the telescope back on against Germany's wishes, a report from Deutsche Welle (DW) reveals.

Germany put its telescope in safe mode to protest Russia's war

In 2019, a Russian heavy-lift Proton rocket launched the Spektrum-Röntgen-Gamma telescope into orbit as part of a collaboration between Russia's Roscosmos and the German space agency, DLR.

The 1.2-ton Spektr-RG spacecraft is currently located some 1.5 million km from Earth in a halo orbit. The X-ray observatory was designed to detect and observe galaxy clusters and supermassive black holes. 

Under the agreement between Russia and Germany, Roscosmos would build the Spektr-RG spacecraft while Germany's Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics was tasked with designing and manufacturing the space observatory's primary instrument, named eROSITA. After its launch, eROSITA took its first observations in late 2019, and it was supposed to continue to observe the cosmos for seven years.

Then Russia's invasion of Ukraine started in late February this year, and Germany decided, alongside many other Western nations, to halt scientific collaboration with Russia. At this point, eROSITA had conducted four of its eight intended "all-sky" surveys, and it was put in safe mode when Germany announced it would no longer collaborate on the project.

The Spektr-RG spacecraft is as isolated as Russia's space industry

Roscosmos chief Dmitry Rogozin, a Putin loyalist known for his now-infamous "American broomsticks" jibe, recently addressed the status of the Spektr-RG collaboration during an interview on Russian TV. According to DW, Rogozin said, "I gave instructions to start work on restoring the operation of the German telescope in the Spektr-RG system so it works together with the Russian telescope."

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"They — the people that made the decision to shut down the telescope — don't have a moral right to halt this research for humankind just because their pro-fascist views are close to our enemies," he added.

German officials have hit back saying that restarting the scientific instrument without their cooperation could result in serious damage to the telescope.

Rogozin has been a vocal supporter of Putin's war in Ukraine, and he recently suggested the International Space Station could come crashing down over Europe due to sanctions levied against Russia's space industry by Western governments. Russia's space industry is increasingly becoming isolated, however, and the Spektr-RG telescope project sadly looks like it may fall into disrepair given the fact that the researchers who designed it are no longer willing to collaborate with Russia on the project, given its unprovoked attack on Ukraine.

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