The future of the Russian Space Strategy Game

cite des etoiles CPKStar City, Moscow

Russia has had at an early stage space ambitions since Fiodorov and Tsiolkovski. But after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989, it had to adjust to a critical economic situation. The space sector was doomed to stand still, paralyzed by a reduced budget and facing the disinterest of politicians. Unable to fulfill its ambitions, the space sector became a plain service supplier for westerners. Putin, the new Russian « Iron Man » took office in 1999 in this miserable situation. In order to give momentum to Russia, he was well aware that he would have to rehabilitate space industry and declared during the Space Day in 2004 that Russia needs to favour « a throughout development combined with an in-depth approach » of its activity in order to «  claim to a position of leader on the international scene ». It is a two-track strategy for Putin : he tries to foster national pride in order to display progress to add value to his policy. He also wants to achieve economic independence on the international market as far as the exports of raw materials are concerned by diversifing its commercial activities. He relies on the GLONASS navigation system that is strategically important because the Russians are the only ones with the Americans to possess such assets which are seen as a display of power.

1925119_819622784727729_4754366126333734027_nVostotchny Cosmodrome

The « Strategy for the Development of Space-related Activities till 3030 », that goes along the lines of Putin’s policies, was presented by the Russian Space Agency. Russians want an independent launch programme for business and are building the Vostotchny cosmodrome in that purpose. In order to reboost the space sector, Russia seeks to promote technology transfer, develop international space cooperation. In the meanwhile, officials accept to raise the budget allocated to space : in 2008, the budget reached 1.6 billion USD, 4.7 billion in 2012 and 5.3 billion in 2013 (© OCDE 2014). This represents an increase of 0,16% of the share of the GDP dedicated to space.

It is though complicated to report on the state of space industry and all the more on its technical proficiency. Although the country remains the leader in launch services and manned missions, it goes through a great deal of orbital launch failures and frequently lost contact with their spacecrafts.

The Russian Space programme for the upcoming years includes two steps. Some extracts of this supposedly confidential document leaked in the newspaper « « Kommersant ». In addition to the construction of the Vostotchny cosmodrome expected to open in 2015, the Russians are allegedly planning to develop a new generation of launchers in 2020 such as Angara, supposed to replace Proton. They want to add value to space exploration by setting up a scientific station on Mars, organzing the exploration of Venus and Jupiter in collaboration with other space agencies. In 2030, Russia thinks big and envisions an electrically powered space shuttle between Earth and the Moon. Beyond this horizon, the project of a lunar base and a manned mission on Mars are on the drawing board. The funding of those programmes is not confirmed yet as the opacity of the Roskomos bureaucracy makes it difficult to sort out the true from the false. However, it is noticable that their strategy is funded upon a realistic approach to their economy with a priority given to space-based applications.

Moreover, it is important to specify that this programme has to be considered with an economic context. In light of a report given by the Audit Chamber to the Parliament in 2005, 50% of the space infrastructures are «  outdated and only 1% of it is renewed every year ». To this is added a shortage of talents in the sector and a major lack of investment from state banks and abroad. All in all, although the sector is slowly being reorganised, notably under the consortium of the ORKK, it is still mired by the constraining bureaucracy of Russian space industry.

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