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Russia’s space industry at crucial stage

April 11, 2014, 19:06 UTC+3 Itar-Tass Analysis
© ITAR-TASS/Alexander Astafyev

MOSCOW, April 11. /ITAR-TASS/. No space power works with projects which can be compared in scale with those that were being implemented in the previous century. But despite stagnation, prospects for further cosmonautics development persist, noted experts polled by ITAR-TASS Political Analysis Center on the eve of Russia’s Cosmonautics Day celebrated in the country on April 12. Russian cosmonautics is at a crucial stage now, they said.

No country in the world works with space projects, the scale of which can be compared with megaprojects fulfilled by the Soviet Union and the United States in the 1960s and even current International Space Station (ISS) project, corresponding member of the Russian Academy of Cosmonautics Andrei Ionin said.

“As for local projects, it is important now for Russia to create a spaceport in the Far East. This spaceport should become a joint space center not only for Russia, but also for the whole Asia-Pacific region. I believe that Russia should primarily cooperate with Asian countries in realizing domestic space programs in the future,” Ionin noted.

In the view of Ionin, few people have a good idea about the future of piloted space missions that require massive budget spending, meanwhile, space industries in the whole world cannot offer a good alternative, and new ideas are needed.

The space industry losses frequently in a market competition, because spacecraft are costly, are developed for a longer time, meanwhile, they cannot be upgraded technically and are not fit for repair. Cell phones are modernized several times a year, telecommunications satellites operate on the orbit for more than ten years. Satellite communications has become a purely niche solution already for a long time.

However, the expert is optimistic about the issue. “In general, despite stagnation, to my mind, we live on the eve of a breakthrough to a new level of cosmonautics,” he added.

Ionin’s fellow scientific expert in the Academy of Cosmonautics Igor Marinin believes that Russian cosmonautics is at a turning point now.

“Since Soviet times we have faced a serious underfunding of the space industry. Let’s recall for how long Buran (the Soviet space shuttle) has been developed. This couldn’t but affect personnel training, development of new components and produce quality. Now funding is at a proper level, but production industries cannot use it, because they lack personnel and chief executives,” Marinin said.

Roscosmos’ new leadership seeks to develop a new ambitious space program, the scientist noted, adding he was hopeful that it “will become a driving force that will promote new research, projects and development of technologies.”

Certainly, general development of cosmonautics and space technologies has slowed down strongly as compared with the 1960s, director for development of the cluster of space technologies and telecommunications at Moscow region’s Skolkovo innovative center Dmitry Payson agreed. This relative stagnation is typical not only for Russia, but also for all space powers.

“But amid general slowdown, our space technologies lag much behind the pace of development in the rest of the world all the same. Meanwhile, we remain the leaders in rocket engine-building, technologies of piloted space flights and partially in the sphere of commercial launch vehicles,” the expert believes.

As for interplanetary space missions, no one discusses them at the level of feasible medium-term projects, Payson said. “Now Roscosmos plans revival of a lunar program and creation of an effective infrastructure around the Moon, but it is being debated only at the level of ideas so far. Only few enthusiasts offer to fly to Mars, but this is not mainstream plans,” he noted.

Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin named three strategic tasks that Russia faces. They are “expansion of our presence on low earth orbits and shifting from their development to their use, exploration and further colonization of the Moon and lunar space, preparations and start of exploration of Mars and other Solar System objects,” Rogozin wrote in his article published in Rossiiskaya Gazeta daily on Friday.

Now Russian space agency Roscosmos jointly with several ministries and in cooperation with the Russian Academy of Sciences and Russian state-run nuclear corporation Rosatom are instructed to draft and formulate “proposals on expediency of implementation” of the national project on deep space exploration.

Noting that Russia still leads in manned space programmes, the deputy prime minister admitted, “Meanwhile, general situation in domestic cosmonautics in other spheres of its activity cannot be named favorable.


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