Russian President Vladimir Putin (center) and Roscosmos chief Dmitry Rogozin (right) tour the VDNKh exhibition center in Moscow in April. Credit:

WASHINGTON — The Russian government dismissed Dmitry Rogozin as the head of the space agency Roscosmos July 15, the same day the agency and NASA signed a long-anticipated agreement to exchange seats on flights to the International Space Station.

In a brief statement, the Kremlin announced the Vladimir Putin, president of Russia, had dismissed Rogozin as head of Roscosmos, effective immediately. In a separate statement, the Kremlin announced the appointment of Yuri Borisov, deputy prime minister of Russia, as Rogozin’s successor at Roscosmos.

The announcement gave no reason for Rogozin’s dismissal, but it may not be due to displeasure with his management of the space agency. Meduza, an independent Russian news publication, reported July 13 that the Kremlin was considering moving Rogozin into a position in the presidential administration or as a supervisor for two regions of Ukraine occupied by Russian forces. That publication cited sources who said Rogozin was “in favor” with Putin, who was “remarkably friendly” toward him in two public meetings since the start of Russia’s invasion in February.

A reason for that, according to those sources, was Rogozin’s bombastic statements and other actions in favor of the war. That included the publication by Roscosmos July 4 of photos showing Russian cosmonauts on the ISS displaying flags of those occupied regions. That prompted complaints from both NASA and the European Space Agency, with NASA rebuking Russia for using the ISS “for political purposes to support its war against Ukraine.”

Rogozin said July 12 he would instruct cosmonauts on the ISS to no longer use a European robotic arm on the Nauka module, part of the Russian segment of the station, in retaliation for ESA’s announcement that day it was formally terminating cooperation with Roscosmos on the ExoMars mission. That decision, though, would have more of an effect on Russian operations on the station than European ones.

Rogozin didn’t comment on his dismissal beyond a post on his Telegram account that included a video and a message of thanks to Roscosmos.

Borisov had been deputy prime minister of Russia since 2018, a post previously held by Rogozin. Before that, he served as deputy minister of defense.

Seat barter agreement signed

At almost the same time that the Kremlin announced the removal of Rogozin at Roscosmos, NASA announced it had completed an agreement with Roscosmos to exchange seats on spacecraft traveling to the ISS, starting with missions launching in September.

Such “integrated crews,” with Russian cosmonauts on Crew Dragon spacecraft and American astronauts on Soyuz spacecraft, are essential to safe ISS operations, NASA explained in a statement.

“Flying integrated crews ensures there are appropriately trained crew members on board the station for essential maintenance and spacewalks,” NASA said. “It also protects against contingencies such as a problem with any crew spacecraft, serious crew medical issues, or an emergency aboard the station that requires a crew and the vehicle they are assigned to return to Earth sooner than planned.”

NASA confirmed that Roscosmos cosmonaut Anna Kikina will go to the ISS in September on the Crew-5 Crew Dragon spacecraft, with NASA astronaut Frank Rubio launching later in the month on the Soyuz MS-22 spacecraft. In addition, Roscosmos cosmonaut Andrei Fedyaev has been assigned to the Crew-6 mission, launching in spring 2023, while NASA astronaut Loral O’Hara will fly on Soyuz MS-23 around the same time.

NASA officials said earlier this week they were hoping to get the barter agreement finalized in about a week. “In order to make sure the training schedules hold for an early September launch, we would like to have that agreement potted by the end of next week. That will ensure that the crew members are all in the right places and their travel is all lined up,” said Dina Contella, operations integration manager for the ISS program at NASA, at a July 14 briefing after the launch of a SpaceX Dragon cargo mission to the station.

Jeff Foust writes about space policy, commercial space, and related topics for SpaceNews. He earned a Ph.D. in planetary sciences from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a bachelor’s degree with honors in geophysics and planetary science...