Mon. Sep 26th, 2022
Dmitry Rogozin, director of the Roscosmos State Corporation, gives an open talk entitled
enlarge Dmitry Rogozin, director of the Roscosmos State Corporation, will give an open lecture entitled “Transformation of Roscosmos” at Moscow State University on May 23, 2019.

Vladimir GerdoTASS via Getty Images

The leader of the Russian civilian space program seems increasingly detached from reality. In recent months, Dmitry Rogozin, the chief of Roscosmos, has given a series of interviews in which he has made all kinds of big promises about the supposedly bright future of the Russian space program.

For example, in a just-published interview, Rogozin made the fantastic claim that his country’s space program has the technical means to reach Mars and land cosmonauts there within eight to 10 years. If Russia is ready to fund such a plan, Rogozin guaranteed that Roscosmos is ready to perform.

Russia, Rogozin also recently said, is ready for reuse better than SpaceX and the United States. SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket, he said, is only “semi-reusable,” and Russia is aiming to build a 21st-century rocket capable of 100 flights. He then reiterated that Russia would like to develop a version of its Soyuz rocket with a methane engine.

SpaceX has flown its Falcon 9 first stage rockets five times and plans to reuse each booster 10 times. It is not clear what measures Russia has taken towards reuse. The reality is that Russia depends on reliable but decades-old technology to go into space. And while Rogozin has a good play about sending his cosmonauts to the Moon or Mars, and competing with SpaceX on reusable rockets, this one appears to be mostly a blunder.

Budget cuts ahead

Roscosmos has a relatively meager budget to run its civil space activities. Funding for civilian programs in 2020 is 176 billion rubles, which is equivalent to $2.4 billion; that’s about a tenth of NASA’s funding. In addition, there are reports that the Russian Ministry of Finance wants to significantly cut the budget of Roscosmos, by 20 billion rubles per year for the next three years.

According to a Russian space industry source, the 11 percent cut would affect “funding for the creation of new launch vehicles and advanced space technologies.” This means that Roscosmos may not see funding for the kind of programs Rogozin talks lavishly about.

In a revealing interview with The Wall Street Journal published this weekend, a Siberian-born physicist named Mikhail Kokorich told how he fled Putin’s Russia after co-founding Dauria Aerospace in 2011. Dauria was the first private space company to be established in Russia, but the Soviet-era approach proved too onerous there, Kokorich said. After moving to the United States, he founded Momentus Space.

Kokorich offered this mind-boggling first-hand assessment of national prominence in space: “The US is definitely number one, then the European Union, then China,” he said. “Then I think India is now comparable to Russia, and maybe even more advanced than Russia in a broader sense.”

By akfire1

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