Staunton, July 7 – Polls taken in 2011, 2016, and 2021 show that Russians view their country’s space program as second only to victory in World War II as the key “reference point” in their history, as a symbol of authoritarian modernization, and as “an indicator” of whether the country is moving in the right direction or not, Pavel Luzin says.
That makes the sector’s problems in recent years more important than they would otherwise be and means at the same time that the country’s political leadership almost certainly will devote more attention to the Russian space program than would otherwise be the case, the Russian security analyst says (ridl.io/ru/obnovlenie-rossijskoj-kosmonavtiki/).
Indicative of the space program’s importance for the Russian people and the Russian state is that the law governing its operation was adopted even before the Russian constitution and its basic policy document has remained largely in place since 2014 (garant.ru/products/ipo/prime/doc/70484388/ and kommersant.ru/doc/4234346).
“The main problem with this document,” Luzin says, is that it contains goals which “exceed the objective capabilities of the country,” especially in the wake of the imposition of Western sanctions for the Russian annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea. That gulf between goals and abilities has only grown in recent years.
Specifically, the Russian space program is supposed to focus on three large-scale projects: the manufacture of the Angara launch vehicle, the return of Russian cosmonauts to space, and the construction of a new space port at Vostochny to replace the Baikonur facility which is in Kazakhstan.
According to Luzin, the Russian space effort can achieve progress in all these areas; but to do so, it must “stop trying to emulate the US” where the government is drawing on the private sector to finance many American projects. For the foreseeable future, there is no chance that private funds will flow into the Russian program.
Specifically, the analyst continues, Roskosmos must continue to operate as a state corporation rather than being converted back into a government space agency, plans for new cosmonaut flights should be developed “exclusively” with international cooperation, and military and civilian efforts should be separated
But most important, Luzin argues, “Russia can and should abandon any notion of ‘space autarchy.’ It must participate in the system of international industrial cooperation and thus restore legal access to space electronics produced abroad. That will require a significant shift in Moscow’s policies, but without it, Russia will lose two things.
On the one hand, it won’t have a serious space program for much longer. And on the other, its failure to operate one will have the most negative impact on how the Russian people view their government, with failure in space being viewed as an indication that the regime is failing in general.