Former Russian space agency chief injured in Ukraine shelling, completes surgery: report

dmitry rogozin, wearing a coat, pointing to a wall poster of a rocket inside of a launch tower
Dmitry Rogozin was head of Russian space agency Roscosmos until 2022. (Image credit: Mikhail Klimentyev/AFP via Getty Images)

A former Russian space agency head is out of surgery after an attack in Ukraine, according to state media reports.

Dmitry Rogozin, who was director-general of space agency Roscosmos until July, underwent a "complex operation" on his spine in Moscow and is "on the mend", according to state media service TASS on Monday (opens in new tab) (Dec. 26). (The report was in Russian; translation provided by Google.)

Rogozin was wounded by gunfire in Donetsk, Ukraine on Dec. 22, including a concussion and a "shrapnel wound above the right shoulder blade," TASS added. Russian-language reports on social media service Telegram (opens in new tab), on a channel attributed to Rogozin, claim he was deliberately targeted after information was leaked about him having a party at a local hotel.

Russia invaded Ukraine in February to the condemnation of the world community and most space partnerships have been sundered in the months since, aside from the International Space Station

Related: Russia's invasion of Ukraine as seen in satellite photos

The controversial Rogozin was dismissed from his Roscosmos post in July following several inflammatory comments regarding ISS operations, which NASA maintains have been normal despite the Ukrainian situation. Russia also performed an anti-satellite test in November 2021 that has forced the space station to dodge debris numerous times. 

Since leaving Roscosmos, Rogozin "appears to lead a volunteer unit called Tsar's Wolves that provides support to Russia's proxy forces" in Ukraine, a BBC report (opens in new tab) from Dec. 23 stated.

Donetsk has been under control of "Russia's proxy authorities" since 2014, the BBC said, when part of Ukraine was forcefully annexed by Russia. At that time, Rogozin was placed under American sanctions and in anger, once suggested NASA astronauts should use a trampoline to reach the orbiting complex, as only Russian Soyuz spacecraft were available then to send humans aloft. 

SpaceX's Crew Dragon began flying U.S. astronauts from American soil in 2020, to replace the space shuttle that retired in 2011. In between these two spacecrafts' availability, NASA purchased seats on Soyuz spacecraft for astronauts to continue flying to the ISS.

Related: International Space Station at 20: A Photo Tour

Burning buildings on the eastern side of the Ukrainian city of Mariupol, photographed by Maxar Technologies' GeoEye-1 satellite on April 6, 2022. (Image credit: Satellite image ©2022 Maxar Technologies)

As for the ISS, Russia said this year it plans to withdraw from the coalition after 2024 to build its own space station in 2028 or so; this week, TASS (opens in new tab) and other Russian media suggested the Russian ISS withdrawal would be in 2028. NASA hopes to extend ISS operations until at least 2030, but needs other partners to agree to that. 

Coincidentally, this month Russia and NASA are grappling with damage to a Soyuz that may make it impossible to send three ISS crew members home in that spacecraft. The Soyuz dramatically leaked its coolant on Dec. 15, canceling a Russian spacewalk. If a rescue craft is needed, it won't be available until at least February, Roscosmos officials said Dec. 22.

An old Russian Fregat rocket stage also came dangerously close to the ISS on Dec. 22, delaying a planned spacewalk by NASA astronauts by 24 hours as the complex was maneuvered out of the way.

Elizabeth Howell is the co-author of "Why Am I Taller (opens in new tab)?" (ECW Press, 2022; with Canadian astronaut Dave Williams), a book about space medicine. Follow her on Twitter @howellspace (opens in new tab). Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom (opens in new tab) or Facebook (opens in new tab).

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Elizabeth Howell
Staff Writer, Spaceflight

Elizabeth Howell, Ph.D., is a staff writer in the spaceflight channel since 2022. She was contributing writer for Space.com (opens in new tab) for 10 years before that, since 2012. Elizabeth's reporting includes an exclusive with Office of the Vice-President of the United States, speaking several times with the International Space Station, witnessing five human spaceflight launches on two continents, working inside a spacesuit, and participating in a simulated Mars mission. Her latest book, "Why Am I Taller?", is co-written with astronaut Dave Williams. Elizabeth holds a Ph.D. and M.Sc. in Space Studies from the University of North Dakota, a Bachelor of Journalism from Canada's Carleton University and (soon) a Bachelor of History from Athabasca University. Elizabeth is also a post-secondary instructor in communications and science since 2015. Elizabeth first got interested in space after watching the movie Apollo 13 in 1996, and still wants to be an astronaut someday. Mastodon: https://qoto.org/@howellspace