What Roscosmos thinks about the ISS and its future?

What Igor Komarov meant saying about joint with the US future space station, and what Russia plans to do with the ISS until 2024, according to local media.

In previous articles about Russian space industry we focused on the future of Angara family of launchers and, earlier, on the most prominent private space company of the country, Dauria Aerospace. This article is dedicated to Russia's manned space exploration and, in particular, to its International Space Station (ISS) plans.

Following the successful launch of Soyuz TMA-16M manned spaceship with three crew members of the Expedition 43 to the International Space Station (so-called 'One-Year Crew'), Chief of Roscosmos Igor Komarov and NASA Administrator Charles Bolden held a press-conference in Baikonur, Kazakhstan.

One-Year Crew before the flight. Scott Kelly (left), Mikhail Korniyenko (right), and Gennady Padalka (center)
Preview 551eb6335370610b9f840200
Thumb 551eb79e5370610b9f8a0200
Igor Komarov (in front), Chief of Roskosmos. Credit: Alexander Kovalev

According to RIA Novosti, Igor Komarov said: “Roscosmos and NASA intend to cooperate under the program of future space station construction. That will be an open program, where not only existing [ISS] participants would be able to take part; it is expected to be open for other parties, interested in it.” Later he added that the agencies agreed to extend ISS exploitation until at least 2024, and 'it is not excluded that this term might be additionally prolonged'.

Charles Bolden, according to media, just told that one day the International Space Station would be unable to function properly and should be replaced. He stressed that both NASA and Roscosmos understood necessity to share some of the future construction activities with private companies.

Interesting to note, Charles Bolden, talking at the press-conference in Baikonur, focused on Mars exploration. “Our next step of cooperation will evolve in Mars exploration. We are discussing ways of how to allocate resources, finances, responsibility, time in order not to duplicate each other.”

NASA's 'Journey to Mars' plan
Preview 551eb6335370610b9f860200
Thumb 551eb79e5370610b9f8b0200
Charles Bolden, NASA Administrator

In a statement to SpaceNews, NASA spokesman David Weaver said the agency appreciated the Russian commitment to extending the ISS, but did not confirm any plans for a future space station. “We are pleased Roscosmos wants to continue full use of the ISS through 2024 — a priority of ours — and expressed interest in continuing international cooperation for human space exploration beyond that,” Weaver said.

Later a source in Russian space industry confirmed to TASS Agency that talks on the future space station, although take place between NASA and Roscosmos, are not more than just discussions. “No real, shaped projects have been committed,” he added.

So what Igor Komarov meant saying about joint future space station with the USA?

First of all, Russia's commitment to continue cooperation under space exploration and the ISS program in particular seems to be a very positive sign. After some rough statements, where future of the ISS was questioned, made by Russian officials after sanctions were imposed to the country in response to annexation of Crimea, rhetoric of Roscosmos has again become cooperative.

Famous 'trampoline' Dmitry Rogozin offered NASA to use instead of Soyuz spaceships
Preview 551eb6335370610b9f890200

We should understand that Russia was and is pragmatic. It is clearly unfavorable for it to close joint space projects with western countries. In the time of economic crisis and very restricted access to western capital markets it would be difficult for Russia to fund multi-billion space programs from its own pockets only. So, it pretended for a while that is didn't see NASA and ESA in its future space activities, and again talking about cooperation.

Thumb 551eb79e5370610b9f8d0200
Yuri Koptev, Roskosmos official

Yuri Koptev, Chairman of Science and Technical Council of Roscosmos, honestly said: “This [ISS program] is economically beneficial for us. During the whole term of the project, we have invested there around 10% of money, but used 30% of resources it provided.” And he confirmed the statement that Russia could not afford itself more spending than earlier. “All of that [economic crisis] results in increase of costs of space programs, which currently amounts to 27% rise [in Russian rubles]”.

Koptev also admitted that budget of the draft Federal space program for 2016-2025, to be submitted to the Russian government in June, will be cut by 10%. He supposed that the total funding for space activities under that Program would be 3.4 trillion rubles (near $60 billion under the current conversion rate, or $6 billion per year).

Russia's new Multipurpose Laboratory Module of the ISS at Khrunichev Facility
Preview 551eb79e5370610b9f8f0200
We should understand that Russia was and is pragmatic. It is clearly unfavorable for it to close joint space projects with western countries.

At the press-conference at Baikonur Igor Komarov noted that Roskosmos and NASA have agreed to work under united standards in creation of future crewed spaceships, first of all, in development of their 'interaction' and docking systems.

He also couldn't avoid space tourism topic, offering Russian celebrities to follow Sarah Brightman and become cosmonauts. “If you [our 'stars'] have enough money, desire, and readiness to train hard in order to learn how to be a cosmonaut as successful as it does Sarah Brightman now – welcome!”

Sarah Brightman, who is ready to become the 8th space tourist
Preview 551eb79e5370610b9f920200

It was informed earlier that Roscosmos, in order to fill the gap after termination of a contract with NASA on delivery of astronauts to the ISS, plans to intensify its space tourism services. It is expected that since 2018 the US will have own manned space transportation means, and Roscosmos would face necessity to offer somebody seats in Soyuz crewed spacecraft that got free.

That is why RSC Energia, responsible in Russia for manned space programs, plans to sell seats on Soyuz spaceships for short-term tourist flights. Moreover, it was reported that Roscosmos may order RSC Energia to consider possibility of half-year ISS mission for a tourist. However, it is admitted in Roscosmos as well, Soyuz-based space tourism is under serious question due to a very high price for a flight.

News were retrieved from RIA Novosti and TASS agency (in Russian).

Next article Blue Origin makes progress. In suborbital space systems as yet Previous article 6D-printing, Elon’s statue at Cape Canaveral, and other Fools’ Day news