Russia Not a Player in Increasingly Privatized Space Exploration, Experts Say
October 1 – The Russian Federation is playing an ever smaller part in civilian
and increasingly privatized space exploration because Moscow has subordinated
its space efforts to the needs of the military and other government agencies,
according to Russian experts surveyed by Novyye
only is this approach costing Russia the income it might get from civilian and
privatized projects, they say; but perhaps more important, it means that the
country is falling ever further behind in the pursuit of knowledge about space
and about the kinds of technologies that space exploration can generate.
Russian space specialist, Vadim Lukashevich, places the blame directly on
Rogozin. He “is not even a politician who looks ahead and thinks about
consequences.” Instead, he focuses on meeting the needs of the military and
ignores civilian ones, even though “the most successful space projects are
precisely the civilian.”
military is only concerned with space near the earth, but civilian projects are
focusing on the moon, the planets and the stars, he says. That is what the US
is doing already; and it is leaping ahead of Russia as a result. And those who gain
information advantages, Lukashevich’s colleague Natan Eismont says, gain others,
including military ones, as well.
the Russian space program ignores that reality. Eismont gives just one example:
On the international space station, the US side has conducted 1457 experiments
in that unique micro-gravity environment; the Russian side only 85, a clear indication
of the priorities of the two countries.
says he plans to change this imbalance; but his promises come too late. The US
plans to end financing of the international space station by 2025 and rely on
other, typically private companies, instead.Moscow must make a similar change or fall even further behind,
Lukashevich and Eismont say.
there is no indication that the Russian space program under Rogozin is actually
going to make those shifts.And its talk
of a combined effort with the BRICS countries is empty: Most of the other countries
don’t have the necessary technology; and China doesn’t need Russia to pursue
its own goals.
and other Russian space officials have comforted themselves with the fact that
Russia is the only country which has the capacity to take cosmonauts and
astronauts to the international space station. But that ignores both US
government decisions and the achievements of private American space companies.
situation could have been very different, the experts say. In 2013, some in
Moscow proposed that the Russian space program follow NASA’s approach, getting
Roskosmos out of the business of industrial production and making it instead a
grantor of contracts to the private sector.
that happened, the experts continue, Roskosmos would have been interested in
competition just as the Americans are and just as was the case under Stalin and
his Soviet successors who often played one group of industrial producers off
against another to achieve breakthroughs.
instead, Lukashevich and Eismont say, Moscow plumped for a system even more
centralized, undercapitalized and militarized than its Soviet predecessor; and
now, the country is suffering as a result.
is going to happen next? Near-earth cosmonautics in Russia are going to remain
dominated by the military; and explorations into deeper space will occur if and
only if Moscow can bring itself to cooperate with others in the international
community, something it shows little or no sign of being willing to do.
reflects Moscow’s current approach well: He is enamored of military programs
and anti-Western rhetoric regardless of what that means for Russia’s future in
space or even on earth, the Moscow newspaper concludes.