Russian officials, ESA Chief discuss space exploration prospects
Russian Minister of Industry and Energy Viktor Khristenko and European Space Agency Director General Jean-Jacques Dordain met in Moscow on April 29 to discuss progress in implementing joint space exploration programs and cooperation development prospects.
He congratulated Dordain on the successful completion of the ESA astronaut Andre Kuipers' flight on board the International Space Station and noted that cooperation in this sphere is developing.
Special attention at the meeting was paid to the program of developing a launch facility for Russia's Soyuz-ST rocket at the ESA space center in French Guiana. Khristenko praised Dordain's personal contribution to the making of a positive decision by the ESA Council on this program.
"A high level of trust between Russian and European enterprises, which was achieved thanks to permanent support from space agencies, and the parties' firm intention to expand and develop mutually profitable partnership in space activity is a reliable foundation for our cooperation," Khristenko said.
The cooperation in this field has two goals, he said. "First, we ensure functioning of Russian and European industry, and second, we jointly develop the best launcher option," he noted. In response to a question from Interfax-Military News Agency, Dordain said that Angara or another carrier rocket might also be chosen. The main thing is that the parties are working together, he stressed.
Director of the Russian ministry's defense industry department Yuri Koptev said at the meeting that the project's attractiveness for Europe is primarily explained by its integration in the general context of long-term partnership with Russia, which provides for carrying out joint space programs and which is capable of ensuring Europe's independent access to space.
According to experts, the program will boost Soyuz output and attract large extra-budget funds to the Russian space industry. Dordain stressed that the Russian and European space agencies are establishing closer relations. ESA is considering the best form of interaction with Russia, he said. A new form of Russia's participation in ESA projects is to be worked out by the end of the year, he noted.
Speaking about ESA astronaut flights to the International Space Station, Dordain said that talks are underway with the Russian Federal Space Agency on arranging both long-term and short-term flights. Two flights of this kind are planned at the moment. It is not yet clear which country will send its representative to space, as this will be determined at the end of the talks. Dordain did not rule out that one of such flights can have a long term.
A chief said that the Russian Federal Space Agency is providing comprehensive assistance in arranging astronaut flights to the ISS.
On the same day Mr. Dordain met with Director General of the Russian Federal Space Agency, Anatoly Perminov. During this meeting both heads of Agencies agreed that the true and real partnership is possible only if a joint strategy in space activities is worked out.
"We are still thinking of the best way to do it, and before Russia can become a member of ESA we need to invent a special status for its membership. Russia occupies half of Europe and the possibilities of Russia in the field of space activities are several times higher than those of any member-state of ESA, - this should be taken into account" said ESA Director General.
During the meeting with Anatoly Perminov it was decided to establish a Joint Working Group that should work out specific cooperation issues and present the results of this work by the end of this year for further elaboration of detailed plans.
Speaking to the journalists after the meeting J.-J. Dordain called the joint assembly and operation of the Space Station and the organization of Soyuz launches from the CSG in French Guiana the most important present cooperation activities. The near future will see proposals for cooperation on GALILEO/GLONASS, Earth Observation and Telecommunications.