When international cooperation works and when it doesn’t

Friday, April 15, 2022 11:00 a.m.

NASA astronaut Christina Koch is helped out of the Russian Soyuz MS-13 spacecraft just minutes after she, Roscosmos cosmonaut Alexander Skvortsov and ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano landed in an area remote near the city of Zhezkazgan on February 6, 2020 in Kazakhstan. Koch returned to Earth after logging 328 days in space – the longest spaceflight in history by a woman – as a member of Expeditions 59-60-61 on the International Space Station. (Photo by Bill Ingalls/NASA via Getty Images)

This week:

  • The growing militarization of space
  • Rogozin from Roscosmos again
  • When international cooperation works

A report from the Pentagon

In the post-Cold War renaissance of orbital and galactic business, the commercial space sector is booming.

However, the division of private space efforts and militaristic activities is no small feat, according to a new report from the Pentagon on Wednesday.

“Military and civilian space services are not easily separated,” the US security watchdog said, alleging that the Russians and Chinese were developing weapons to specifically target US satellites.

After ramping up its space efforts in the 1980s, China’s space agency has doubled its number of annual launches over the past decade.

The country, which has been at the center of growing geopolitical tensions with the Western superpower, “has devoted considerable economic and technological resources” to its space program.

But in doing so, “China has also developed and will likely continue to develop weapons for use against orbiting satellites to degrade and deny adversary space capabilities,” the Pentagon says.

China currently owns and operates more than 60 communications satellites, at least four of which are for military use, according to Pentagon intelligence data.

The Pentagon has also accused China of carrying out so-called “cyber espionage” against foreign space entities, amid growing animosity above the Earth’s surface.

Speaking at a press briefing on Wednesday, Beijing spokesman Zhao Lijian said China “always advocates the peaceful use of outer space” and the United States “has weaved a narrative about the so-called threat posed by China and Russia in outer space.” in order to justify its own military reinforcement.

Roscosmos

The boss of Russian company Roscosmos has declined a meeting with the NASA administrator, amid tensions between the two space agencies following the ongoing invasion of Ukraine.

Dmitry Rogozin, an ally of Putin, confirmed on Monday that he would not be meeting NASA boss Bill Nelson after all.

Nelson, 79, took over as Galaxy leader in May last year, however the meeting had been postponed several times during the pandemic.

“Despite my many invitations, I myself have not met Bill Nelson, who has held this position for a year,” Rogozin said in an interview with the state newspaper Rossiyskaya Gazeta.

“Maybe for age-related reasons he was afraid of contracting the disease during the pandemic, that’s why he never came to Russia. And he certainly won’t come now.

The NASA chief was due to visit Moscow in the first half of this year, according to Roscosmos Deputy Director General for International Cooperation Sergei Savelyev in December.

Resuming cross-flights and continuing cooperation on the International Space Station (ISS) were supposed to be on the agenda of the meeting, Savelyev added.

However, given Rogozin’s current stance and his repeated threats to the safety of the ISS and its astronauts via Twitter, the meeting will no longer take place.

With satellite giants like OneWeb snubbing Russia’s launch capabilities in response to the invasion, which saw the country accused of horrific war crimes, Russia’s position alongside other space nations has been reversed. .

The Pentagon report a few days later highlighted the global reliance on Russian launchers to transport astronauts to and from the ISS, which “earned Russia a measure of prestige” and “enhanced Moscow’s perception of as a world leader in space” – an addiction that is quickly being dismantled.

United States and United Arab Emirates: international collaboration

While Russia, China and the United States have thrown in the towel on cooperation, the US space agency announced this week that it will collaborate with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to analyze data from Mars.

The partnership will see the two space agencies share data from their respective missions to the Red Planet, with a focus on the Martian atmosphere and the upper atmosphere system, the two agencies said in a joint statement on Tuesday.

“We are excited to take the opportunity to work alongside other Mars missions and gain better insights by sharing our observations and working together to put the pieces of the puzzle together,” said the mission’s project manager. UAE Martian, Omran Sharaf. .

The United Arab Emirates’ Mars 2020 mission, known as Hope, was the first interplanetary exploration undertaken by an Arab nation.

“Combined, we will have a much better understanding of the coupling between the two and the influence of the lower atmosphere on the escape to space of gases from the upper atmosphere,” added Shannon Curry, researcher and principal investigator for Mars Atmosphere. and NASA Volatile. Evolution mission.

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