Wed. Sep 28th, 2022
Roscosmos head Dmitry Rogozin visits the control center for a launch pad for the Soyuz-2 launchers at the Vostochny Cosmodrome.
enlarge Roscosmos head Dmitry Rogozin visits the control center for a launch pad for the Soyuz-2 launchers at the Vostochny Cosmodrome.

Yegor Aleyev TASS via Getty Images

In the 10 days since SpaceX launched humans into orbit — giving NASA the ability to get its own astronauts into space — Russian officials have given a mixed response. However, there seems to be a clear trend: a minimization of SpaceX’s achievement and a clue to Russia’s own bright future in space.

At a post-launch press conference on May 30, SpaceX founder Elon Musk boldly said, “The trampoline works.” This was a dig at the head of the Russian Space Corporation, Dmitry Rogozin, a former Russian defense official who was sanctioned in 2014 as part of the US response to Russian aggression in Ukraine. When the US relied on the Russian Soyuz vehicle to go into space, Rogozin suggested on Twitter that NASA could use a trampoline to go into space if it didn’t like cooperating with Russia.

After Musk’s most recent comments, Rogozin initially went along with the joke, saying: he had fun with itPlease convey my sincere regards @Elon Musk (I loved his joke) and @SpaceX team. I look forward to further cooperation!”

Change in tone

This was all good and diplomatic. In reality, however, it seems more likely that Rogozin was stung by this “joke.” A few days later, Rogozin ended his personal Twitter account and changed the handle to an official Roscosmos account and deleting some of his more incendiary tweets. Sadly, the old fiery Rogozin has disappeared from Twitter. At least for now.

But he himself is clearly not gone. Earlier this week, Rogozin wrote an op-ed in Forbes about Crew Dragon and Russia’s plans in space. Roscosmos has since published an English version, in which Rogozin is much less complementary to SpaceX and NASA.

Rogozin says SpaceX is no different from any other space company, as it has received “colossal funding” for Crew Dragon, that the spacecraft is very heavy, and Americans should be damn grateful that Russia got them into space for nine years. None of this is particularly untrue, but Rogozin’s words seem angry and defensive.

“Elon Musk didn’t bring us down — he shot down his Boeing compatriots who passed them with the start of flight testing,” Rogozin said. “This war is theirs, but not ours.”

Interestingly, he also admits that the Russians pushed NASA for access to space. While Rogozin says Roscosmos made “honest” money for the Soyuz spaceflights, he disagrees with the idea that the Crew Dragon is cheaper than a Soyuz. (According to NASA, the price per seat for Crew Dragon is $55 million. During the latest round of negotiations, the space agency paid Russia more than $90 million for a Soyuz chair).

“The cost of our launches is significantly lower than the US launches,” Rogozin said. “The gentlemen seem to confuse the launch cost with the launch service price shaped by the market. That’s why I insist that the Soyuz MS spacecraft with the Soyuz 2.1a launch vehicle was and still is undisputed – no matter what our competitors say.”

space gun

Much of the rest of the opinion is spent talking about all the great things Russia is doing in space — even if the Soyuz spacecraft is compared to masters of Italian Renaissance artists such as Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, and Titian, and alternatively as our ‘space Kalashnikov rifle’.

This outburst about the future of Russian space has been accompanied by social media. For example, last Friday, Rogozin’s rebranded Twitter account excited tweeted about the next-generation spacecraft “Oryol” of the company. The tweet showed photos of an “escape” test in the event of a ditching. In reality, the photos showed some people using a rope to climb down an Oryol mock-up, which has been in constant development and may never fly. Besides, Russian space journalist Anatoly Zak said: this “news” was a replay of a test that took place seven years ago.

Similarly, Roscosmos’ head of media relations, Vladimir Ustimenko, recently said the country would begin testing two new missiles and resume its lunar exploration program soon. However, this story appears to have been published with photos of an old Baikal concept booster from twenty years ago.

The pattern seems pretty clear here. Following the success of SpaceX and NASA, Roscosmos feels the need to make announcements about its own impending breakthroughs. Whether they come true or not, we won’t hold our breath.

By akfire1

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