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Russian-US. Space cooperation falls back to earth

When a SpaceX rocket launched on December 5 and sent a cargo of cargo to supply the International Space Station (ISS), it was a prime example of how private companies are driving the next generation of space exploration. [19659002] Six days later, two Russian cosmonauts hovered in front of the ISS, hurling fragments of insulation into space with a knife and pliers as they searched for evidence of why a tiny hole had appeared in one of the Soyuz modules built in Russia – the orbiting station ,

Taken together, the events revealed the growing gap in the countries' symbiotic space partnership, where one plays the role of the conspicuous, technologically advanced pioneer and the other the stable provider of decades-old but reliable designs and equipment.

The respective space agencies of the countries ̵

1; NASA and Roscosmos – have been working together for more than two decades. As the United States withdrew its Space Shuttle fleet, the two Space Race enemies grew closer in 2011 than ever before. Russian Soyuz rockets were the only way to transport people and equipment to and from the ISS, causing NASA Roskosmos to pay around $ 2.5 billion for its services since then. The relationship has been maintained lately, despite worsening political tensions between Moscow and Washington.

That changes everything.

An alarming launch event in October sent a Russian and American to Earth, who along with the enigmatic ran to the ground hole, supplemented by questions about the reliability of the Russian program.

Lucrative Market

The rise of private companies such as SpaceX is gaining importance in building missiles that can transport people and cargo to the ISS. And they are targeting the lucrative world market for satellite launches – both for trade and government – and threatening to undercut Russia's market share and robbing Roskosmos of much needed revenue.

The developments also enabled the US to replace the US RD-180 engines built in Russia to power the Atlas V launch vehicle – an uneasy trust that was fueled by Washington's efforts to Approving Russia for the annexation of the Ukrainian Crimean peninsula will make RD-180 more difficult in 2022 – revenue for the manufacturer of the traditional Energomash power plant – and some US rocket manufacturers may already have spare engines in place.

  NASA astronauts Richard Arnold (left) and Andrew Feustel (right) with Roscosmos cosmonaut Oleg Artemyev posed in March 2018 at the Russian-leased Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

NASA astronauts Richard Arnold (left) and Andrew Fustel (right) with Roscosmos cosmonaut Oleg Artemyev posing in March 2018 at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, rented in Russia, for a photo.

NASA's Roscosmos astronaut contract ends in February 2020, SpaceX and Boeing are waiting to take over, as both US companies have entered into NASA contracts to launch astronauts from 2019 onwards.

Close observers of the Russian-American states The space relationship says it is premature to conclude that Washington and Moscow will go completely separate ways in space exploration. NASA, for example, said it intends to continue working with Russia on the International Space Station (ISS) by at least 2025. And if private rockets get the final green light in the coming years, Russian cosmonauts will probably belong to their potential cargo. 19659002] "I do not think anything will end soon," said Marcia Smith, an experienced space analyst who runs the online publication SpacePolicyOnline.com, to RFE / RL. "We'll fly our guys with their rockets, and they'll let their guys fly with ours."

The NASA press office did not respond to several telephone calls and e-mails requiring an interview with the agency's administrator Jim Bridenstine. Bridenstine, however, emphasized in October before the Russian state news agency TASS the continued cooperation of the two countries and the possibility of cooperation in the Gateway project which NASA refers to as "US orbital platform" and considered as the successor to the ISS

The United States and Russia "had a great relationship," which co-operated on the ISS, he was quoted as saying. "We've both benefited greatly from the use of the Soyuz crew capsules Soyuz rockets, as if we wanted to expand that and go to the moon in a sustainable way. And we would very much like to work hand in hand with Russia at the gateway and other parts of this architecture. TASS quoted him with the following words:

However, the administration of US President Donald Trump has suggested that Washington will no longer support the ISS until 2025, and Moscow suggests that they may be other space contractors [19659002] Second To None

Bridenstin's comments were analyzed by Russian officials to imply that Russia's future cooperation with the United States will be a junior partner, something that the boss of Roskosmos, Dmitry Rogozin, had

"I believe that Russia can not afford to take part in a project of other countries in supporting roles" TASS quoted Rogozin in September.

A sharp Rogozin himself has been in the space partnership with the United States from the air and is sometimes a crazy nationalist, mocking Washington for being on Soyuz-Ra Keten had to leave to bring his astronauts to the space station.

  Crew members of the International Space Station Ricky Arnold (left) and Drew Feustel (right) from the USA and Oleg Artemyev from Russia are resting on chairs after landing in Kazakhstan on October 4 in a remote area outside the city of Dzhezkazgan.

International Crew members of Space Station Ricky Arnold (left) and Drew Feustel (right) from the US and Oleg Artemyev from Russia are resting on chairs after landing in Kazakhstan on October 4 in a remote area outside the city of Dzhezkazgan.

In May, he was appointed head of the Russian Space Agency – in spite of or because he was placed on the US list of Russian individuals who were sanctioned for the annexation of Crimea by Moscow four years ago.

Three months after Rogosin took the lead In Roskosmos, the mysterious hole was discovered in the Soyuz module docked at the station. Not long after the hole was clogged, he suggested that sabotage was the fault of it, possibly by the crew on the station. When the Russian media continued to speculate that an American astronaut might be responsible, it caused the US commander to make a sharp response.

Rogozin later said on a television program that the people he knows at NASA have pressured him. He called "rabid Russophobes". He gave no further evidence.

The more than seven-hour spacewalk of the two Russian cosmonauts on December 11 was aimed at locating the hole from outside and returning a panel for Russian engineers to inspect. As the end of 2018 approached, the final report was still pending.

Rogozin's comments have not completely shaken off US efforts to maintain a semblance of cooperation.

In his interview with TASS, Bridenstine also announced that the agency had secured a profit by temporarily waiving the sanctions against Rogozin so that he could visit the United States.

"I would like to discuss a lot with Rogozin," Bridenstine was quoted as saying. "If we want to build a strong working relationship, we need to work closely together, which is good for both countries."

It was not clear if Rogosin was actually granted a visa. and if he could travel to the United States.

Near Miss

In October, a Soyuz rocket fired from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan was operating shortly after launch. The incident sent NASA astronaut Nick Hague and Russian cosmonaut Aleksei Ovchinin on an emergency route to Earth. Both were not damaged.

A follow-up report accused of a manufacturing defect, with inspectors blaming Baikonur for the assembly process.

The incident shook the perception of Russian space programs, raising questions about the quality of engineering and whether insufficient funding has led to a deterioration in quality. In addition to the embarrassment for Russia, Bridenstine was present at the launch and at his first meeting with Rogozin.

Smith of SpacePolicyOnline said that Russian and American officials apparently cleared the incident without any external signs of discord. And in an interview shown on NASA's television channel, American astronaut Hague praised the Russians for their training and response to the mishap.

A backup team successfully launched aboard another Soyuz ship on December 3rd.

But the future of the Russian space program did not escape the test.

Russia's "reliability is questioned, so what needs to change?" Smith told RFE / RL how he noted the loss of experienced agency workers and the shortage of new recruits.

The analyst said Russia had found a way to restore its reputation, and "these things always seem to return." the money. "

In his annual report published on October 26, Roskosmos had several achievements, including the launch of 87 satellites, the near completion of the Vostochny Cosmodrome – which could possibly replace Baikonur – and the construction of a new New Generation Soyuz system. 5 missiles.

The agency also pointed to some challenges, including difficulties in obtaining parts and technology from abroad due to western sanctions and the rapid growth of private competitors for commercial launches: SpaceX in the first place.

Es It was also cited that a decline in state funding has led to a decline in rocket production.

Russia's reputation as a major provider of commercial satellite launches was also hit when the country landed in an ambitious venture that […] aboard Russian rockets internet-capable microsatellite launched, d he most important security agency is cold water.

In comments to deputies of the Russian House of Commons on December 11, the deputy chief of Roskosmos suggested that the effort to bring people back to the moon and possibly build a permanent base there was less a cooperative effort than a competition between Russia, the United States and China.

"I think that there is a" moon race "started What is happening now is just some sort of competition between the three space powers," Sergei Dubik was quoted as saying by Interfax .

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