A senior U.S. defense official visited Russia recently in hopes of fostering collaboration between the two countries on military space work.

Marine Corps Gen. James Cartwright, commander of U.S. Strategic Command, visited Russia in early March in hopes of establishing cooperation in areas such as keeping tabs on objects in space, according to a written response to questions provided by Air Force Maj. Jeff Jones, a spokesman for Strategic Command, which is based in Omaha, Neb.

Cartwright and his Russian counterparts also agreed to examine an exchange program for launch support officers, according to the written statement.

During his trip, April 4-7 , Cartwright met with Russian officials including: Gen. Yuriy Nikolayevich Baluevskiy, Russian Army Chief of the General Staff and First Deputy Minister of Defense; Gen. Col. Vladimir Alexksandrovich Popovkin, commander, space forces of the Russian Federation; Lt. Gen. Anatoly Aleksandrovich Bashlakov, commander, Plesetsk Launch Site; Lt. Gen. Nikolay Pavlovich Kolesnikov, commander of Main Center for Space Assets Test/Control; and Lt. Gen. Aleksandr Pavlovich Kovalev, commandant of Mozhaysky Space Forces Academy.

Bashlakov, Kolesnikov and several other Russian officials also visited U.S. military space organizations during a Feb. 26-March 4 visit, according to the Strategic Command statement.

Those officials visited space operations squadrons at Schriever Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, Colo., the small satellite laboratory at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, the Joint Space Operations Center at Vandenberg Air Force Base, and the Atlas launch facilities at Patrick Air Force Base in Florida.

Cartwright was accompanied on his trip to Russia by Air Force Brig. Gen. Larry James, director of signals intelligence acquisition and operations at the National Reconnaissance Office; Brig. Gen. Robert Worley, director of plans and programs at Air Force Space Command; and William Parker, Strategic Command’s political advisor.

One area in space where the U.S. and Russian militaries have collaborated in the past has been missile warning. The two countries were working jointly on the development of the Russian American Observation Satellite (RAMOS), but the Pentagon canceled that effort in 2004 when it elected to spend the remainder of the program’s budget elsewhere.

However, joint missile defense work was not discussed during Cartwright’s trip, according to the Strategic Command statement.

Joint work on keeping tabs on objects in orbit could help improve both U.S. and Russian capabilities in this area and ease tensions about what each country is doing in space, according to Theresa Hitchens, director of the Center for Defense Information, a think tank here.

While the Pentagon likely has much better space surveillance systems, Russia has in some cases compensated for its limited technology by using advanced mathematical models for tracking spacecraft that could be of use to the United States, Hitchens said.

If this cooperation on space surveillance works out, it might make sense to bring the European Union into the fold as well, given its increasing use of space and interest in watching what is in orbit, Hitchens said.

Russia and the United States likely have much to learn from each other in the launch arena as well, according to Brett Lambert, managing partner for the Densmore Group, a consulting firm here. The two countries approach launch operations very differently, with the U.S. using very rigid processes, and Russia using more flexible procedures, he said.

Russia’s success in launching rockets could be of particular interest as the Pentagon continues to seek to assured access to space and improve the reliability of its launch vehicles, Lambert said.

Comments: jsinger@space.com