While the International Space Station (ISS) continues to operate without “significant delays,” NASA’s safety advisers say that sanctions against Russia for invading Ukraine are beginning to affect some activities.

Despite Russia’s intrusion of Ukraine and subsequent sanctions put on Russia by other nations in the ISS partnership, members of the Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel (ASAP) confirmed earlier assertions by agency officials that day-to-day activities of the ISS had continued.

“Work, training, and preparedness in Moscow for our international relationship with Russia on the ISS are ongoing and have always been ongoing,” said Susan Helms, an ex-NASA astronaut, and panel member. “Everything appears to be as it has always been.  For the relationship, the teams are cooperating.”

Visas to Russia and entrance to the Star City complex outside of Moscow have proved easy to obtain. Russian cosmonauts were given training in the United States while NASA astronauts were trained in Russia.

However, economic sanctions on Russia are having an impact on that partnership. “The geopolitical sanctions which have been imposed on Russia over the last six months have created a climate where some administrative issues are becoming obvious,” she added, referring to NASA workers in Russia.

Limited travel alternatives such as airlines cutting or halting service to Moscow were among the issues she mentioned. As banks in Russia cease operations, credit cards are hard or impossible to use. Some NASA employees and their families have also “voluntarily” left Russia, prompting NASA to “control the personnel more tightly and vigorously than they did in the past.”

The panel is “resolute” in its backing for seat swaps between commercial crew vehicles and Soyuz, enabling NASA astronauts to travel on Soyuz and Roscosmos cosmonauts to be able to fly on Crew Dragon, she said. Should either spacecraft be out of operation for a prolonged timeframe, such “mixed crews” would assure that both Americans and Russians are aboard the ISS. NASA officials previously stated that they needed to secure a deal by June in order to allow swaps on September trips to the station.

Other ISS difficulties, such as a long-running probe into a small yet persistent air leak that is in the Russian segment’s service module, have been unaffected by the restrictions. “NASA and Russia are cooperating to understand the root cause, risk margins, and mitigations,” Helms stated. The effects of strains on the module, including thruster firings, spacecraft dockings, and undockings, as well as the day-night cycle’s thermal stresses as the station does orbit the Earth, have been measured by cosmonauts installing strain gauges around probable leak areas.

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