Rogozin Wants ISS Extension, Gateway Too U.S.-Centric

Rogozin Wants ISS Extension, Gateway Too U.S.-Centric

Dmitry Rogozin, the head of Russia’s space agency, wants an agreement to extend the lifetime of the International Space Station (ISS) to 2028 or 2030. The ISS partners are discussing it, but whatever the outcome, Russia is committed to keeping cosmonauts in low Earth orbit indefinitely. As for the Moon, Russia is unlikely to participate in the Artemis lunar-orbiting Gateway because it is too “U.S.-centric,” but he wants to ensure a standardization of interfaces so Russian spacecraft can dock there as well.

Rogozin and the heads of six other space agencies around the world spoke at the opening of the International Astronautical Congress today, which is being held virtually this year.

Dmitry Rogozin, Director General, Roscosmos, speaking at the International Astronautical Congress, October 12, 2020. Screengrab.

One of his major themes was the need to extend the lifetime of the ISS, which is celebrating 20 years of human occupancy in a few weeks. The ISS is a partnership among the United States, Russia, Japan, Canada, and 11 European countries operating through the European Space Agency (ESA). They are agreed on operating ISS through 2024, but Rogozin wants to extend that to 2028 or 2030.  He said the partners are discussing that right now, but however it turns out, Russia is determined to keep Russian cosmonauts in low Earth orbit (LEO).

NASA is similarly committed to keeping U.S. astronauts in LEO even as it moves out to the Moon and Mars, but it wants to become one of many customers of commercial space stations rather than building another one itself or with other governments.  It is focused on how to transition from the government-owned ISS to commercially-owned facilities. Legislation pending in Congress would extend ISS to 2028 (H.R. 5666) or 2030 (S. 2800 and H.R. 5470). NASA declined to answer what year it prefers in response to queries from on September 30 and today.

Operation of ISS is governed by an Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) signed by the partner governments in 1998 after Russia joined. (The original IGA was signed among the United States, Japan, Europe and Canada in 1988. Russia was invited to become part of the ISS program in 1993 after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the IGA was revised.)

NASA is using the IGA as the basis for inviting other countries to join a new international coalition in building a small lunar-orbiting space station called the Gateway as part of the Artemis program to return astronauts to the surface of the Moon. In addition, it is promulgating a separate sets of principles called the Artemis Accords for lunar surface activities.

As he has in the past, Rogozin signaled that Russia is not likely to become a Gateway partner.

In our view, the Gateway in its current form is too U.S.-centric so Russia is likely to refrain from participating in it on a large scale. — Dmitry Rogozin.

For that to change, the program would have to based on the principles of international cooperation that were used for ISS where “all decisions are being taken collectively.”

He added there are benefits to Russia building a separate lunar transportation system. That would add redundancy, reducing risk, but only if there are standards and standardized interfaces so its Orel spacecraft, which is in development, can dock at the Gateway, too.

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine later issued a statement assuring that is what NASA wants as well.

Bridenstine added that NASA is waiting to hear back from Roscosmos on a draft Gateway cooperative agreement it sent last year. “We remain open and interested in receiving their feedback.”

An IAC session on international participation in Artemis tomorrow will air live on NASA TV.

Rogozin went on to say that Roscosmos wants to continue working with international partners, praising the “open and friendly” relationship it has with the China National Space Administration (CNSA): “we believe there is more to come in these relations.”

CNSA Director Zhang Kejian was another member of the panel.  He did not get into specifics, but noted China is already cooperating with Russia, ESA, France, Italy and Brazil and wants to use the International Astronautical Federation, which organizes the IAC, as a platform to develop further cooperation with peers including the United States, Russia and Europe.

By law, NASA is prohibited from engaging in bilateral cooperation with China without advance approval from Congress.

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