European and Russian space agency leaders meet in Moscow
Today the heads of ESA and the Federal Space Agency met in Moscow. ESA Director General, Jean-Jacques Dordain, opened the meeting by saying it was not by chance that Anatoly Perminov, the head of the Federal Space Agency, was the first top space manager with whom he requested a meeting once ESA’s Ministerial Council ended.
Important issues were discussed at the Ministerial Council that took place from 5-6 December, many of which will involve further cooperation with Russia. For the first time in history Europe has made a policy decision on launcher utilisation for European missions. Ariane, Soyuz or Vega will be selected to launch European satellites, with the Rockot launcher as a standby in case Vega is not available.
The Council allocated consistent funds for the next three years to develop advanced technologies for future transportation systems under ESA’s Future Launcher Preparatory Programme. This will allow European industry to carry out joint studies with Russia in the areas of propulsion systems, reusable rocket stages and experimental vehicles. ESA Member Countries also confirmed their dedication to the International Space Station by allocating funds for the next three years; good news for all the ISS partners, including Russia.
Ministers have not yet taken a decision on European participation in Russia’s future Clipper crewed transportation system, judging the situation to be still not mature enough. However, the door remains open and joint studies on Clipper will be carried out. Finally, ESA Ministers made significant allocations to the European telecommunications programme, opening the way to develop advanced technologies in this area, in particular with Russia.
Dordain assessed the discussions during the Ministerial Council as difficult but overall positive. He assured his Russian colleague and friend, Anatoly Perminov, that he will continue to foster cooperation between Europe and Russia in the space area.
The two Directors agreed that studies on Clipper will be continued during the next six months, with the objective of better defining the concept of the future vehicle, identifying specific missions and determining the place that European industry could take in this Russian programme.
“It has been historically demonstrated that the world needs to have at least two space transportation systems and Europe is bound to take part in their development, otherwise the prospects of European participation in the future space exploration programmes will be drastically limited,” Dordain said.
Members of the Russian space programme said that other countries have expressed willingness to participate in the Clipper programme, for instance Japan and China, but the European decision will be a deciding one. “We could not expect a positive decision be taken by Europe right away. The fact that none of the ESA Member States was against such participation is very important in itself,” Anatoloy Perminov said.
The meeting was conducted in a constructive and friendly spirit, and was followed by a press conference with Russian and foreign Moscow-based mass media.