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In January, the European Space Agency (ESA) announced that it would be closing its orbiter programme and mothballing its flagship spacecraft, Sputnik.

The decision to retire the two missions was expected to happen in early 2019, but the agency has since delayed the announcement by a month and released a new, less-public statement about the decision, which also notes the “disappointment” of ESA employees.

“The Sputnks [the two satellites] have proven themselves to be essential to the mission, but we feel it is time to move on,” the ESA statement reads.

“As a result, the Sputnikov project will be closed for the foreseeable future.

In the meantime, we thank our colleagues at ESA and the Russian space industry for their contributions and for their dedication to SputNks mission.”

As of now, the two satellites have been retired, with the mission still on track to launch in 2024.

“It is not easy to replace a great space project,” said Igor Konashenkov, ESA’s director of science operations, in a statement.

“But the fact that we are able to keep working with SputNet is a testament to the dedicated and dedicated team of people at ESA.”

The ESA has had a number of successes in space, including the launch of the Galileo spacecraft in 2013 and the Juno mission in 2020.

“We have seen a very good relationship with the Russian companies over the last ten years, and we are proud of that,” Konashev added.

“I am not going to give you the number of contracts we have signed with Russian companies but, in my opinion, the amount of cooperation has grown over the years.

And I can assure you, this partnership is continuing.”