Transcript: Putin-Perminov Discuss Russian Space Program

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Roskosmos has posted a transcript of a discussion between Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and Roskosmos administrator Anatoly Perminov. They discussed GLONASS navigation system, cooperation with China and African nations, International Space Station operations, preparations to launch Soyuz rockets out of French Guiana, and the upcoming Phobos-Grunt mission to Mars.

Meeting transcript (brief):

V. Putin: Good day. Let’s begin from GLONASS. What is the progress in the program? I know you visited China. Could you tell about it?

A. Perminov: Concerning GLONASS – the work is ongoing in line with the schedule. Special emphasis is made on extension of the orbital constellation, and ground user hardware. 20 spacecraft are functioning in orbit, 18 of them are active, two have some malfunctions. Cluster launches of three satellites each are planned in September and December. Thus, there will be 24 spacecraft in orbit by the end of 2009.

V. Putin: The two with malfunctions- what`s happened to them?

A. Perminov: We recover them. One satellite undergoes technical maintenance, so it will be recovered. As for the other one… We are trying to eliminate the failure.

V. Putin: Is it feasible?

A. Perminov: For the first one – yes, it is for sure. For the second one – there is a doubt. This satellite is of older type and it has run out of its lifetime. Regarding augmentation of the orbital constellation, 35 space launches were made in the world within the last six months, and 6 of them were made by Russia. We launched 19 spacecraft with various purposes- commercial, social and economical, security. It confirms that this market is still on our hands. The USA launched 12 spacecraft within 6 months, and other countries- 2 or 3 each.

Speaking about human spaceflight program, we fulfill our commitment on the international level today. Even more, we increased operational intensity twice. We used to launch 2 human space vehicles and 2 cargo supply vehicles per year. In 2009, we reached this level in half a year. We have to launch 4 human and 4 cargo vehicles in 2009, due to extension of the ISS crew to 6 persons starting from May. All 5 ISS partners today fulfill the obligations. In addition, we will launch Mini-research module to the station in November.

Concerning international cooperation, we give consideration to the old projects, such as Soyuz at CSG. About 200 Russians are permanently involved in the activities at Guiana Space Center. There, we finalize the operations with the mobile gantry. 4 transfers have been already made. I believe, by October 30, we will complete the major operations, and proceed to preparing shipment of our launchers, as we have agreed upon with the administration of the European Space Agency. We will prepare for the maiden launch sometime in early 2010. It might be the second satellite for Galileo. They are going to use our system. In July, we intend to complete the work in the Naro space port, South Korea.

Now – about the work in the African states. In Egypt, we, together with Rosoboronexport, were occupied with the Earth remote sensing in the Е-Star system- you know it perfectly, you started this job. Finally, we signed all the contracts. Initially, there will be one satellite, and may be more later on. They express their great interest to the GLONASS system. In Nigeria, we prepared and signed frame agreement on all branches of the space activities. Currently all contract obligations are signed with Angola. The obligations cover development of the communications satellite system for this country. This includes design and manufacturing of the communication satellites, personnel training, with some sessions here, all ground infrastructure.

I returned from China not long ago. The old program had expired. China has practically prepared a new 3-year program. Now we consider not individual projects, but cooperation initiatives. For example, development of the space system for Shanghai Cooperation Organization. We begin from communications. The decision was made to get prepared by October, and present our system proposals at the meeting of this Organization.

Similar approach is valid for the Earth remote sensing. The project is bilateral, Russia and China- data exchange, interaction. This year we launch a serious scientific project, Phobos-Grunt. Chinese spacecraft has been already delivered. The system will be launched to Mars. Chinese spacecraft will remain in the Martian orbit, and our station will transfer to the orbit of Phobos, Martian moon. Then, there will be entering of the Phobos` atmosphere, and landing. The project is carried out jointly with Europe and China, it`s an international project. But Russian portion here is 90%. The project is crucial. The same is valid for the lunar explorations. There is Luna-Glob project, which we run actively together with China.

So, we have planned serious projects. In addition, we deal with developing electronic and hardware basis for ground user equipment. This equipment is costly in the Western countries. Unfortunately, producing is here is also very expensive. That`s why we have to make cooperative effort to manufacture ground user hardware in the cheap facilities. Joint development with the Chinese industry may be an option, but the equipment must be for Russian GLONASS.

V. Putin: You shall use deliberate approach. If their manufacturing process is cheaper, it doesn`t mean that we have to close all production lines here. We also have to make everything cheaper and enhance quality ourselves.

A. Perminov: That`s why we`ll develop it here, of course. But if we find joint development cheaper, we would come to you to make our proposal. We will submit the whole program for your approval in October.

V. Putin: Ok.