* U.S. sanctions hit high-tech exports to Russia arms sector
* Russian space industry seen badly hit
* Deputy PM says Russia will retaliate
(Adds more detail, Rogozin, Inmarsat)
By Gabriela Baczynska
MOSCOW, April 29 Extensive cooperation in space
between Washington and Moscow came under pressure on Tuesday
after the United States banned high-tech exports to Russia under
new Ukraine-related sanctions.
Russia pledged tit-for-tat measures in revenge for U.S.
sanctions it said would hit its space industry, a symbol of
national pride and a sphere of fierce competition with the
United States dating back to the Cold War.
A deputy prime minister suggested that U.S. astronauts, who
depend on Russian rockets to get to the International Space
Station (ISS), use trampolines to reach it instead.
However, analysts said Moscow was unlikely to curb its
shuttle service to the ISS, for which U.S. space agency NASA
pays more than $60 million per person, as it provided essential
financing for the cash-strapped industry.
The White House said on Monday the United States would deny
export licences for any high-technology items that could aid
Russian military capabilities and revoke existing licences.
"The seriousness of these measures is absolutely obvious for
us," Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told gazeta.ru in an
online interview, highlighting high-tech cooperation between the
two countries, including launching satellites, either
American-made or containing U.S. components.
"All this hits at our high-tech enterprises and industries."
Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin, responsible for
Russia's defence industry and known for anti-Western rhetoric,
suggested space may be the next frontier in the standoff over
Ukraine, which has taken relations between Washington and Moscow
to their worst since the Cold War.
"The United States introduced sanctions against our space
industry... We warned them, we will reply to statements with
statements, to actions with actions," he wrote on Twitter.
"I propose that the United States delivers its astronauts to
the ISS with the help of a trampoline," he added.
RUSSIA SET TO SUFFER
The United States and the Soviet Union were locked in the
so-called "space race" for decades. Russia's Yuri Gagarin was
the first man in space in 1961 and Neil Armstrong of the United
States was the first man on the Moon in 1969.
With the Cold War over, competition gave way to cooperation.
While NASA was banned earlier this month from contacting the
Russian government due to sanctions, operation of the space
station, a $100 billion research project owned by 15 countries,
But Sergei Oznobishchev, director at the Institute for
Strategic Assessments think-tank in Moscow, said many other
joint space projects would suffer immediately.
"This is a very sensitive issue since our defence industry
was completely unprepared for such developments," he said.
"Both sides will suffer but Russia will lose out more in terms
of technology transfer."
"For us, this cooperation was largely a technology school."
Analysts said Russia still lagged in production of high-tech
electronic components - including microchips for satellites -
and that meant its space and arms sectors were overwhelmingly
reliant on imports from the West.
Depending on the scale and scope of the sanctions, at stake
could be up to five commercial satellite launches contracted by
foreign clients by the end of this year at the Khrunichev
Center, a state-run Russian spacecraft maker.
"We are ready to carry out all the commercial launches we
have planned for this year and we hope that will be the case. We
have all the necessary permits to that end," said Alexander
Bobrenyov, the Khrunichev Center's spokesman.
But in a sign of market concern over the sanctions, shares
in British satellite operator Inmarsat fell on Tuesday
despite the company saying the schedule of satellite launches
for its new faster broadband network was not affected.
The new satellites are due to be carried on the Russian
Proton Breeze M rockets launched from Kazakhstan.
(Additional reporting by Megan Davies and Steve Gutterman in
Moscow, Paul Sandle in London, Writing by Gabriela Baczynska,
Editing by Nigel Stephenson and Tom Heneghan)