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Consequences of EU sanctions against Russia for space exploration
by Staff Writers
Moscow (Voice of Russia) May 23, 2014

President Vladimir Putin's trip to China might bring new agreements on Russian cooperation with China in space.

EU sanctions are a two-edged knife, aimed at the Russian Federation but hurting Europe as well. Due to western sanctions the Russian leadership has decided to give up the International Space Station (ISS) in 2020. Instead, the money and intellectual resources will be spent on cooperation with China in space research. How will Europe cope without Russia?

"EU sanction logic does not fit modern reality", Russia's Minister of Foreign Affairs, Sergei Lavrov, pointed out at a recent press conference. "Russia's relations with the EU require a rethinking, a reassessment is needed", Sergei Lavrov said.

In France the leader of Front National, Marine Le Pen, chimed in criticizing that the "EU wages a Cold War on Russia against its own interests." Marine Le Pen advocates good relations with Russia as "the required minimum for the world." The European Union is going through a period of difficulties since Russophobic elements gained the upper hand in western Europe.

As far as Russian cooperation with western partners in space is concerned, the required reassessment has resulted in the decision to withdraw from the ISS in 2020. Russian Soyuz rockets will no longer serve as space taxi to transport western cosmonauts from the Russian Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan to the ISS. Russia's Deputy Prime Minister, Dmitry Rogozin, joked that western cosmonauts could "use a trampoline" to get up into space.

On a more serious note, he announced that Moscow was planning strategic changes in its space industry after 2020 and aimed to use money and intellectual resources that now go to the space station for a project with more prospects. These could include collaboration with the Chinese on other space stations or even moon bases (The Guardian,15.05.2014).

Russia eyes cooperation with China in space
President Vladimir Putin's trip to China might bring new agreements on Russian cooperation with China in space. The Russian Minister of Economic Development, Alexey Ulyukaev, named space industry as one of the sectors where new contracts will be signed (Die Stimme Russlands,19.05.2014). China already has its own space laboratory, Tiangong 1, launched on the 29th of September 2011.

The "Heavenly Palace" number 1 will be replaced by number 2 in 2016 and number 3 by 2020. This project is supposed to culminate in a large Chinese orbital station, consisting of a 20-ton core module, two smaller research modules and cargo transport craft. The "Heavenly Palace" will support three cosmonauts for long-term habitation.

Currently, Tiangong 1 serves both as manned laboratory and experimental test station. It has been visited by a series of Shenzou spacecraft. Shenzou 8 successfully docked in November 2011, Shenzou 9 in June 2012, Shenzou 10 in June 2013.

The manned missions to Tiangong 1 included China's first female cosmonauts, Liu Yang and Wang Yaping.Liang Xiahong, Head of the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology, announced that the Chinese Long March carrier rocket series have been industrialized: "By 2020, China will meet a market demand of more than 270 domestic and 460 foreign space launches" (Space Daily,13.03.2014).

"International cooperation will be encouraged and the door is open", Zhang Bonan, chief designer of the Tiangong project, told the Xinhua News Agency.The Chinese leadership indicated that it is willing to invite Russia on board. If the Russian Federal Space Agency Roscosmos teams up with the Chinese, this new cooperation in space might lead to unprecedented synergy effects, very valuable to both countries.

European plans in space
Europeans are making feverish plans to stand on their own feet, as time is running out. They will have to develop the Ariane 6 rocket to make it operational until 2020. Ariane is a series of European space launch vehicles, named after the mythological Greek character Aria(d)ne.

The European Space Agency ESA has been launching Ariane rockets from Kourou in French Guiana, where proximity to the Equator facilitates the launch. Ariane 6, the newest member of the Ariane family, seems to be somewhat of a black sheep: too bulky, too expensive, too unflexible, the Germans say, while the French would like to see it built, rather sooner than later (Handelsblatt,19.05.2014).

The German Centre of Flight and Space Research (DLR), led by the German engineer Johann Dietrich Worner, pleads for a complete overhaul of the Ariane 6 plans. However, the French engineer Jean-Yves Le Gall, CEO of Arianespace in France, is a staunch supporter of the Ariane 6 as it is. Worner says that Ariane 6 will cost a minimum of four billion euros, too much money for such a project, the other departments of ESA will have to suffer heavy cuts. Yet Le Gall defends the original Ariane 6 plans, a French prestige project.

With the men being so stubborn, now the ladies are coming up front. Genevieve Fiorasco, France's Minister for Higher Education and Research, wants to talk to Germany's Parliamentary State Secretary at the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy, Brigitte Zypries, who coordinates the German aviation and space policies. Genevieve Fiorasco thinks that the French-German tandem in space exploration should not break up over Ariane 6 squabbles.

Furthermore, she believes that 59 successful launches of Ariane 5 over the past years have demonstrated that the Ariane technology is worth while being preserved and optimized in the future.

One thing is clear: without the Russian Soyuz rockets, ESA will have to speed up its space research and spend a lot more money on it than initially foreseen. So the Russians' decision to stop their international taxi service into space could be seen as a purposely poisoned birthday gift to ESA on its 50th anniversary of existence in 2014, an elegant means of retaliation for EU sanctions against Russia.

Olivia Kroth: The journalist and author of four books lives in Southern France. Blog

Source: Voice of Russia


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