Russian Space Program Pushes Ahead, While U.S. Back-Tracks On Sanctions
May 19, 2014 • 9:28AM

Russian President Vladimir Putin announced last year that Russia's space program would receive a record-setting $52 billion over the next six years, to revitalize its aerospace industry, and develop new infrastructure and capabilities for exploration beyond 2020. Last week, Dmitry Rogozin made reference to a new long-term plan for space, and some details were "quietly" released on May 13, which were overshadowed in the press by his remarks responding to the U.S. sanctions.

According to The Moscow Times, this long-overdue modernization effort, which was made urgent by last week's fifth Proton rocket failure since December 2010, will include the renovation of Russia's old launch facility at Plesetsk, used mainly for military payloads, and the launch facility at Baikonur, in Kazakstan, which carries out all manned missions. The modernization effort will also include an expanded constellation of Earth-orbiting satellites, both military and commercial; the construction of the new Far East launch complex at Vostochny; and modernized industrial rocket and related technology development.

Meanwhile, following a near-panic in the U.S. aerospace industry, which has billions of dollars at stake, after the Administration announced that export licenses for U.S. commercial satellites for launch by Russia would be halted, the State Department has issued shipping licenses for two communications satellites to Baikonur. Also, two European Galileo navigation satellites, which contain U.S. components, were shipped for Russian-rocket launch by the European Space Agency.

On May 15, Roscosmos official Valery Zaichko told Interfax that an embargo on parts for Russian satellites will not affect his agency's plans to develop a new generation of remote sensing satellites. (Russia now imports advanced electronics for its satellites.) "Foreign parts are being used, but cannot affect our plans," he said. "Russia is taking all measures to switch to a domestic component base."

And while the U.S. fiddles on resolving a dispute over allowing Russian Glonass navigational satellite ground stations to be placed in the U.S., as the U.S. has stations for its GPS system in the Russian Federation, Iran announced that it will host a Glonass station, which will increase the accuracy and reliability of the Russian nevigational satellites.

U.S. sanctions on China to prohibit the export to China of any aerospace hardware, and cooperation in civilian space activity, has only advanced China's efforts to independently develop its own capabilities. Sanctions on Russia will, similarly, accelerate the modernization and upgrading of its aerospace industry.