Russia, China Sign Space Exploration Agreement
Published: May 20, 2014 (Issue # 1810)
With a summit meeting between the Russian and Chinese presidents due to begin Tuesday, Deputy Prime Minister Dmitri Rogozin has followed last week's rhetorical bombshell — that Russia was not interested in extending operation of the International Space Station, or ISS, beyond 2020 — by trumpeting a future of increased cooperation with the emerging Chinese National Space Agency.
Meeting with his Chinese counterpart, Deputy Prime Minister Wang Yang, in Beijing on Monday, Rogozin announced on Twitter that he had signed "a protocol on establishing a control group for the implementation of eight strategic projects." In a later Facebook post, he said "cooperation in space and in the market for space navigation" were among the projects.
Rogozin and Wang agreed to hold a meeting between the heads of their respective agencies "in the near future," so that Beijing and Moscow could sow the seeds of a potential space partnership.
Federal Space Agency chief Oleg Ostapanko wants to allow "Chinese colleagues participate in some of the most interesting projects that can replace the ISS," Rogozin said, adding that they would also discuss "projects such as cooperation in the field of rocket engine development," and cooperation in the growing market of space applications services — which primarily applies to the development of the Chinese Beidou satellite navigation system and Russia's Glonass navigation system, both rivals to the U.S.' GPS.
However, analysts doubted Russia's ability to be a reliable and fruitful partner to China beyond 2020, as Russian capabilities in space have drastically withered in the 20 years since the collapse of the Soviet Union, and the Russian space program lacks clear direction or goals.
"The purpose of any cooperation between states in space is to minimize the costs of complex projects and the development of science and technology," Pavel Luzin, a researcher at the Russian Academy of Science's Institute for World Economy and International Relations told the St. Petersburg Times Monday.
By this measure, Luzin sees little point in a Russia-China space partnership. China needs Russia only for "technologies they have not yet developed," and Russia lacks both a long-term vision for its space program and an industry capable of supporting it.
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