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Close partnership of Russia and Europe in piloted space programs today look almost as a decided matter
The two partners are going over from general talks to concrete plans. It became known this summer that Russia had offered the European Space Association (ESA) to take part in designing a new spaceship for manned flights to the International Space Station (ISS) and for flights under a Lunar and Martian program. "Reference here is to the universal spaceship Clipper, being developed by the Energia Space Rocket Corporation, said Anatoly Perminov, chief of the Russian Federal Space Agency (FSA). According to him, Clipper is to succeed the world's most reliable Soyuz spaceships, which are growing outdated as regards their service life and the element base. Clipper will take to the ISS not two or three persons as Soyuz does at present but six persons, Perminov said. "It is not a shuttle - it opens up a prospect for developing a new generation of spaceships; it will be adapted not only for flights to the ISS but also for exploring interplanetary space and for flights to other planets, including Mars," he added. It should be remembered that manned flights today are made in Russia, the U.S. and Europe only under the ISS program. And in the foreseeable future Russian Soyuzes will remain the only means of delivering space crews and supplies to the space station and back, as it is not clear when regular flights of U.S. cargo and passenger shuttles will be resumed. Moreover, because of the re-orientation towards interplanetary studies, the U.S. space program, represented by NASA, is increasingly restrained as regards the ISS. It may even be considered that there is a real prospect of U.S. astronauts abandoning outer space for a long time, leaving their work to machines and equipment. For this reason Russia, for which the space station is a logical continuation of the triumph of the Soviet years in long manned flights, increasingly cooperates with Europeans. This cooperation is most active in the key direction of the ISS program - the development of a new transport system of multiple use. China, too, which not only has been launching space vehicles beyond the atmosphere over decades but also made last year a successful orbital manned flight in a spaceship of the Shenzhou series, which had been practically totally manufactured at home, displays interest in such cooperation. This issue is permanently on the agenda at meetings of experts, as there are no insoluble technical problems in using Shenzhou as a transport spaceship for the ISS. Moreover, the Chinese have already designed a docking unit for their spaceships. The fact that, so far, China takes no part in the program is totally connected with the political questions raised by the United States, which remains an ISS partner. It even comes to expressing apprehensions that if China's rocket carriers of the previous Great March family are launched to the ISS orbit, the launching route will run over the Taiwan territory. Richard Fischer, a spokesman for the non-governmental Jamestown Foundation, put the issue in a broader context on the pages of the most authoritative U.S. aerospace journal Aviation Week and Space Technology. He notes that, if China becomes an ISS partner, this will automatically create a situation in which all information about the ISS project may be used by the military space research of the People's Liberation Army of China. But the station is not a military facility in any respect. And the space flight of the Chinese over Taiwan will not create international crises. It seems that the USA in principle does not like the appearance of a new space power. But this has become a reality. The logic today should be quite different - it is always better to begin with cooperation and then make up for what has been lost, and to find partners, such as Europe, for instance. China takes part in the powerful Galileo project of the ESA, which envisages the development of a ramified European satellite navigation network not inferior to the U.S. Navstar GPS system. A noteworthy fact is that Russia, too, participates in this project. So, nothing prevents the three space powers from finding at a definite stage the spheres in which their space cooperation would be possible, and maybe even necessary, in space flights, in particular to the ISS. For it is clear in any case that conducting any serious work in cosmonautics is inconceivable today without close international cooperation. Even on the market of space launching services, where international cooperation begins with the manufacture of space vehicles and ends with choosing carrier rockets, a choice being strictly dictated by prices. And the subsequent servicing of orbital systems in most cases is performed by large transnational corporations. And piloted programs, which in our days envisage man's long stay in outer space and ambitious interplanetary flights, simply cannot be carried out single-handedly.
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