ESA Chief Says Ties with Roscosmos Remain Strong

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PARIS — The European Space Agency has seen no signs that its relations with Russia will be curtailed as a result of the confrontation between Russia and the West concerning Russia’s actions in Ukraine, ESA Director-General Jean-Jacques Dordain said June 4.

Dordain met May 28 with the head of Russia’s Roscosmos space agency, Oleg Ostapenko, at Russia’s Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan to witness the launch of ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst of Germany. Gerst was part of a three-member crew including NASA and Russian astronauts riding a Russian Soyuz capsule to the international space station.

In a brief interview in Paris during the Global Space Applications Conference organized by the International Astronautical Federation, Dordain said he returned from Baikonur with no concerns that Europe’s multiple space ventures with Russia might suffer given the Ukrainian situation.

The 20-nation ESA, in addition to relying on Russia’s Soyuz for manned flights — as does the United States — is developing its principal space exploration endeavor, the two-mission ExoMars program, in collaboration with Russia.

Russian Proton rockets are scheduled to carry the two ExoMars missions to Mars orbit in 2016 and 2018. ESA is talking with Russia about a possible launch of a European science satellite to Jupiter. 

In July, ESA is scheduled to launch the fifth and last 20,000-kilogram Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) to the station as part of a barter arrangement with NASA. The ATV vehicles are able to dock only on the Russian end of the space station.

Russia and ESA are also using Russia’s Soyuz rocket to launch commercial and government payloads from Europe’s Guiana Space Center on South America’s northeast coast, a program that has developed to the point where ESA governments use Soyuz more than they use the heavy-lift Ariane 5 rocket whose development they financed.

 

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