Roscosmos Director General Dmitry Rogozin proposed that the launch complex of Russian soy rockets at the Kourou Cosmodrome in French Guiana be equipped to a manned level. This, in his view, will save European taxpayers billions of euros and help Europe reduce the space gap. How is the situation for the European space industry and how cooperation with Russia will help it – in Izvestia’s material.
How Roscosmos can help Europe
The Kourou Cosmodrome in French Guiana is used by the European Space Agency (ESA) and the French National Center for Space Research only to launch satellites; Europeans do not carry out independently manned space flights. According to Rogozin, the use of the Russian Soyuz MS would give European cosmonauts an excellent opportunity to independently reach the International Space Station.
The head of Roscosmos stressed that it is currently important for Russia and Europe to find new areas and areas for cooperation. This will allow the latter to “quickly enter the space club.”
How Europe is trying to catch up with the space powers
Europe has recently taken care of lagging behind the most important space powers – Russia, the United States and China. In Toulouse, where EU space ministers met, French President Emmanuel Macron called for a bolder space policy. He said that if Europe’s sovereignty were to fall behind rivals in the development of science and technology, he stressed that outer space is now “another place of confrontation.”
To bridge the gap, the European Union decided to launch a new satellite program that will provide its 27 countries with secure communications. Under the project, which will cost more than € 6 billion, it will be an addition to two existing European satellite constellations – the Galileo navigation system and the Copernicus program, which will allow you to observe the atmosphere and the earth’s surface from space.
According to the program’s curator, EU Commissioner Thierry Breton, Europe should have its own constellation of communications satellites to transmit encrypted information, “in order not to depend on the Americans, or on China, or on anyone else.” This project, he stressed, “is important from the point of view of both defense and sovereignty.”
According to the document published by the European Commission, autonomous space communications will protect important government structures and facilities from cyberattacks, and will also cover still-existing dead zones both within the EU itself and in the “strategic interest” of the Arctic and Africa.
When will Europe start sending pilots into space?
Despite rich experience in launching satellites, Europe is still lagging behind competitors in the field of manned spaceflight – it does not have the capability to launch its own crews. In this matter, it has always been dependent on Russia and the United States.
The cooperation program between ESA and Roscosmos began in 2007. Special launch complexes were built on Kura for new launch vehicles – Soyuz-ST-A and Soyuz-ST-B. The first launch of the Soyuz-ST-B took place on October 21, 2011, when the rocket launched two European Galileo satellites into orbit – an analogue of the American GPS and Russian GLONASS. On December 17, 2011, the Soyuz-ST-A launched the Pleades satellite and four Elisa microsatellites into orbit, as well as the SSoT remote sensing device.
In 2020, the European Space Agency announced that it intends to launch independent manned spaceflights with new rockets, as it does not want to lag behind in a rapidly evolving industry. According to EKA’s CEO Josef Aschbacher, who spoke at the summit on 16 February in Toulouse, the agency is only examining the possibility of independently developing a manned spacecraft.
Rogozin’s proposal could give a good boost to Europe’s intention to participate in the space race and at least get closer to the leaders. Earlier, the head of Roskosmos stated that he had already discussed with his French colleagues the possibility, as part of a major lunar project, to convert the launch complex Soyuz-2 in Kourou for manned programs, including for launching ships in the direction of the Chinese station.
If consensus is reached, the launch complex, according to the director general of the Center for the Operation of Ground Space Infrastructure Objects Ruslan Mukhamedzhanov, will need to complete the mobile service tower and create infrastructure for accommodation and training before the flight of astronauts. And the director general of the Progress rocket and space center, Dmitry Baranov, assures that no refinement of Soyuz-ST will be required at all.