Russia and China may soon be cooperating on space projects. Although the two nations are not currently collaborating, it was reported this week that a Russian aerospace firm is currently in talks with China to aid in future lunar missions and that China has reached out to Russia to help construct a Chinese space station.
Two separate reports within two weeks indicate that China is very serious about cooperating on an international level with regard to its space program, which was a major topic of discussion at the recent Beijing-held Global Space Exploration Conference (GLEX 2017) where a global space agency was proposed. Sputnik News noted that Lavochkin Research and Production Association of Russia told the media outlet last week that it was ready to work with China on designing lunar exploration missions. This would include orbital and return missions, said Sergei Lemeshevsky, the company’s director general.
The acknowledgment came just a day after the head of the International Cooperation Department of the China National Space Administration (CNSA), Xu Yansong, stated that China and Russia were currently in talks involving lunar exploration cooperation. China was reaching out to Russia because its Chang’e-4, Chang’e-5, Chang’e-6 missions were similar to Russia’s Luna-26, Luna-27, Luna-28.
Russia is already collaborating with the European Space Agency on its Luna-25 mission, which has a tentative launch date in 2019.
Lemeshevsky said that “variants of cooperation” already exist with Luna-26, Luna-27, and Luna-29, and that his company was “ready to discuss the variants of mutual cooperation.”
He also acknowledged that working with China on Luna-25, scheduled to test soft-landing technologies, was unlikely, pointing out that it would most likely require mission augmentation and cause delays to the launch deadline.
Sputnik News also reported that China and Russia are negotiating terms by which Russia would collaborate in the construction of a Chinese space station.
Igor Komarov, head of the Russian space agency Roscosmos, said earlier in the week that “they [the Chinese] have made an offer; we are exchanging proposals on participations in projects, but they have a different orbital inclination [standard], a different orbit and somewhat different plans from our own.”
“For now,” he added, “there are agreements and plans for the future, but we do not have anything concrete.”
Russia has plans to use the International Space Station (ISS) until 2024. Economic sanctions imposed on Russia by several members of the international project are expected to cause concerns with cooperation in the future, and Russian media in April published Roscosmos’ plans that provide for a full separation of the Russian segment from the ISS in 2024, thereafter to possibly be part of a stand-alone Russian space project.
Stand-alone or no, Russia sees benefits in collaborating — especially economic — with China on their new space station.
Russia also cooperates with the United States with regard to the ISS. In fact, Russian rockets are American astronauts’ means of transportation to the space station.
Currently, China and the U.S. are in no collaborative missions or talks. Since 2011, it has been unlawful for NASA and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy to engage in any scientific cooperative endeavors with China.
[Feature Image by Eugene Hoshiko/AP Images]