Europe Cannot See Cooperation with Russia in Space

Europe Cannot See Cooperation with Russia in Space
Europe Cannot See Cooperation with Russia in Space

The Russian invasion of Ukraine six months ago had significant consequences for the European space industry. The joint effort to send a European rover to Mars with the aid of a Russian rocket and lander was called off, and Europe severed all ties with the Russian launch business.

Josef Aschbacher, an Austrian space explorer who was managing director of the European Space Agency for less than a year when Russia's tanks began to enter Ukraine, is taking the lead in unraveling the complex links between Europe's space program and the Russian space industry.

Like most Europeans, he was horrified by what he witnessed. In an interview with Ars, he said, “Look at what's happening on the field. As for the invasion of Ukraine, I am really disgusted. We witness it every day. We cannot cooperate with a partner that clearly violates our European principles because what goes on there does not reflect our values.”

Immediately after the Russian invasion, communication between the two space programs broke down. Russian workers at French Guiana's main spaceport for Europe quit their jobs and went home. The European Space Agency arranged for the launch of OneWeb satellites on a Russian rocket, but it was cancelled. 36 satellites are still stranded in Kazakhstan, costing OneWeb just $229 million.

“I can't imagine the rebuilding of the partnership we had in the past,” Aschbacher said. That's something that ESA's action will really reflect on the geopolitical situation of member states at this point, and I think that's pretty obvious. I am speaking here on behalf of my member states and they all agree more or less.

However, this division gave Europe a temporary problem. Five Soyuz missions are planned for 2022 and 2023 to deliver European cargo into space. Aschbacher had to look for alternatives because the new Ariane 6 rocket won't be ready for use until at least next year, including by the continent's commercial launch rival, US-based SpaceX.

“You have to approach it from a very cold, commercial point of view,” he said. “Five planned Soyuz launches have been cancelled. I am currently in contact with several operators. One of them is SpaceX, along with Japan and India, and our main goal is, theoretically, our satellites can be launched with their rockets.

There can be so many emotions in this. This seems like a really sensible managerial choice to me. No cash on the table. Technically, we've only just begun to explore whether this is possible.

Ironically, what sparked closer cooperation between the European Space Agency and Russia in 2012 was NASA's cancellation of participation in the ExoMars mission in 2012, which aimed to land a European spacecraft on Mars for the first time. As a result, Russia became a full partner in providing a Proton rocket and a landing module for the ExoMars mission.

Now, ten years later, ESA and NASA are once again talking about collaborating on ExoMars. Given the current political atmosphere, NASA is far more eager to help land Europe's rover Rosalind Franklin safely on the Martian surface.

Earlier this month, Aschbacher joined Artemis, which I started in Florida. He was optimistic about the future and Europe's cooperation with NASA, which seemed stronger than ever, despite hostilities with Russia. Europe is building a Service Module for the Orion spacecraft as part of NASA's Artemis program, necessary to power and propel the human-hosted capsule.

Later this decade, thanks to this agreement, it is possible for European astronauts to land on the Moon's surface.

According to Aschbacher, it is important to be a core component of this goal. “Today is certainly historic for America, but even more so for Europe as we are a part of it. The European Service Module is on critical path and without it, astronauts cannot be brought to and from the Moon.

source: arstechnica

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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