China & Russia Sign Space Pact, But What Will It Produce?

Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin. (Credit: A. Savin)
Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin. (Credit: A. Savin)

With ties with the United States frayed over Ukraine, Russia has rushed to deepen its ties with China. Everyone’s favorite Josef Stalin-loving deputy prime minister was in China last week to lay the foundation for deeper cooperation in space.

Deputy Prime Minister Dmitri Rogozin has followed last week’s rhetorical bombshell — that Russia was not interested in extending operation of the International Space Station, or ISS, beyond 2020 — by trumpeting a future of increased cooperation with the emerging Chinese National Space Agency.

Meeting with his Chinese counterpart, Deputy Prime Minister Wang Yang, in Beijing on Monday, Rogozin announced on Twitter that he had signed “a protocol on establishing a control group for the implementation of eight strategic projects.” In a later Facebook post, he said “cooperation in space and in the market for space navigation” were among the projects.

The partnership appears to be aimed largely at post-ISS cooperation. China has plans to place a multi-module space station in orbit by 2020 to which Russia could contribute.

Analysts quoted in The Moscow Times –a media outlets that appears to operates independent of Team Putin — don’t seem to think much of the partnership. They don’t think Russia has much to offer the partnership, and that China has already stripped the Russian space program of most things of value.

“The purpose of any cooperation between states in space is to minimize the costs of complex projects and the development of science and technology,” Pavel Luzin, a researcher at the Russian Academy of Science’s Institute for World Economy and International Relations told the Moscow Times Monday.

By this measure, Luzin sees little point in a Russia-China space partnership. China needs Russia only for “technologies they have not yet developed,” and Russia lacks both a long-term vision for its space program and an industry capable of supporting it.

Aside from the failed Phobos-Grunt scientific mission to one of the Martian moons in 2011, the history of Russian-Chinese cooperation in space amounts to little more than technology transfer.

“In particular, the Chinese manned space program — spacecraft, spacesuits, etc. — is largely built on borrowed Soviet and Russian technology,” Luzin said, and “such cooperation should not be exaggerated.”

The other problem that Luzin cites is a failure of the Putin government to make any meaningful reform of the Soviet-era Russian space program. Rogozin is in charge of reforming the space and defense industries, but problems with failed launches, bloat and inefficiencies remain. Rogozin’s main reform is to try to consolidate much of the industry under one government-owned corporation, which may worsen its international competitiveness.

  • Tonya

    Once upon a time, it would have been easy to also see ESA also involved in such a partnership. Recent events make for much speculation.

  • savuporo

    @pbdes Peter B. de Selding May 23

    ESA’s Dordain: We’re in talks w/China on human space flight, maybe co-PI on ESA ISS experiments & how we can use their station for xpermnts.

    ESA’s Dordain: Two ESA astronauts are learning Chinese. In next mnth we’ll issue joint ESA-China call for proposals on a science mission.

  • windbourne

    So, now, Russia goes with China and ESA wants to jump with them.
    This is going to be interesting.

  • therealdmt


  • therealdmt

    So, they’re in cahoots.

  • Kapitalist

    Européeans don’t care about Ukraine, and they can never become members of the EU because of the agricultural policy. So there’ll just be empty words with no action. Russia has some cooperation with India too. They are up and coming in space, recently a pro-space party got majority in the Indian parliament.

  • Tonya

    Congratulations on being the first person to link the EU agricultural policy to the Ukrainian crisis. And so far the only person.

  • Tonya

    I think at the moment events are overtaking existing policies. My conjecture is that everything agreed is no longer certain, and there may well be conflict between some of these arrangements and sanctions under discussion.

  • Michael J

    “Cooperation” boils down to Russia receiving funding for their space program and China receiving technology. In the end China will reap more out of this arrangement.

  • windbourne

    I was thinking about this last night and u are exactly right. China will do to Russia what they have done with america: basically make deals and either have a hidden ace ( such as not using their pollution control though it was installed per agreement with Japan) or out and out break it such as manipulating their money though Clinton accord along with IMF forbid it.
    I suspect that China will not just gain tech but will gain ability to launch Russian SATs. At that point, they will dimply dump on Russian market destroying Russian space.

  • windbourne

    Modi and his party are VERY western friendly and have said for a long time that India should be aligned with america and the rest of the west. In light of china’s actions towards India and now Russia swiftly moving towards China is going to make India unhappy.

  • windbourne

    I must be missing something. I see far more concern from Russia about Ukraine’s future ability to produce all of their energy and sell to western Europe as well.

  • Tonya

    Ignore it, we’re getting into the muddle of EU politics. There are anti-EU parties in just about every European country, and people often link their own bugbear to any story no matter how tenuous the link.

    It’s no different to the people who for some reason start going on about “obamacare” on space forums.

    Ukraine is about security, energy and money, not potatoes.

  • Tonya

    Oh, and Ukraine is a large net importer of energy, where and how it will obtain it (primarily gas) is the long game that Russia plays to influence it’s neighbours.

  • Tonya

    Russia doesn’t operate its space program as a market, there’s nothing to dump on.

  • Pete Zaitcev

    I very much hope for a co-orbiting space station in the same plane as ISS. That could simplify the emergency escape tremendously and open a new page in international cooperation.

  • delphinus100

    But…what would it be dong the rest of the time?

  • Glorfindel

    Autocrats prefer doing business with other autocrats.

  • Kapitalist

    Agriculture policy is the foundation of the EU, 75% or so of the EU budget is spent on agriculture policy. Farmers have all the power in the EU. The first reaction of the EU on the Crimea crisies was the proposal to boycott Russian chicken and eggs. The EU is first and foremost an agricultural policy union. Its reactions on the Crimea crises are exclusively used as a tool for agricultural policy. No other aspects of the crises are even considered.

    The EU is not concerned with foreign policy or defence policy. It has no mandate for such kinds of policies.

  • windbourne

    I was hoping that BA would get a tug for a BA-330, and use that to move between space stations.

  • windbourne

    I believe that Russia launches their commercial sats on Arianne amongst others, do they not?
    Or do they stay only within Russian launch systems?

  • windbourne


  • windbourne

    Yes, but Ukraine has LOADS of nat gas and oil. Right now, Europe and America are working to develop it quickly, which Russia was shut out and was upset about that.

  • windbourne

    I looked that up. That was from 2-3 years ago. Not much has happened in the last year. In fact, not much happened 2 years ago.

  • savuporo
  • Tonya

    Please take your discussion of European agricultural policy to a more appropriate forum. I literally could not think up something less interesting or more off topic.

    For American readers who are slightly bemused by this, it’s the week of the European Parliament’s elections. That’s as exciting as it sounds…

    Alternatively, if Doug is interested, I could probably send him some notes on the French cheese mountain and it’s impact on the Arianne 6 design selection.

  • cdevboy

    How about another far fetched possibility. The period between 2020 and 2024 is very uncertain as to what happens with ISS due to how Russia plans to pull out. Do they move or de-Orbit their modules vs abandon in place for America to use/maintain. The Russians also stop flying Progress supply ships and ferry only humans as needed to that point. Then they recreate some variant of the entire ISS program with China, i.e. Supply a couple of modules of older design, Progress cargo ships as payment for partnership and add their own human lift ability to the pot. They could also provide the (two?) modules now in work but way behind schedule due to construction flaws.

    Meanwhile, the Americans at ISS either use or replace the Russian modules and begin using (by 2018) the three possible commercial providers for automated supply, human lift, assured rescue lifeboats, and fuel for reboots. The other possibility is that they dump ISS and begin using Bigalow inflatable type structures as stations in multiple locations instead of a single complex, expensive station. If the Bigalow type designs live up to plans for cost, size and flexibility, they would represent a second generation leap over what the Chinese-Russian first generation might look like assuming China is in the drivers seat.

    I mean no disrespect to the Chinese space program but I do not believe they will settle for anything less than a primarily Chinese design. And as a first attempt, they will practice some degree of conservatism and known design quantities.

  • Tonya

    Entirely Russian launchers. You may find some Russian money investing in private European payloads if you dig, but that can be difficult to trace.

    Ironically given some of the discussions here, exporting Russian money in a way that’s difficult to trace used to be a major business activity of Ukraine.

  • windbourne
  • savuporo

    Read the articles and you see he is not, the only repeating part is about learning the language.
    Being european myself and trying to actively learn an asian language right now, i’m not surprised it’s still a work in progress.

  • Stuart

    Oops, I bet nobody saw this coming… will China put up with Russia’s unusual business practices?

  • windbourne

    Ajia gengo de wa konnan desu ga, sore wa manabu tame ni 2-3 nen wa hitsuyō ari mase n

  • Kapitalist

    I want to explain that there is not chance in H-l that ESA will boycott Roscosmos. The only political interest in Europe concerning Ukraine, is to continue the boycot against their agricultural products.

    If you are not interested in the actual politics, which dictates what all space agencies of the world actually do (because they are political agencies, which for example get completely shut down immediately as a parliamental tactical game when debt increases temporarily halts), then you will not understand anything of what happens. You might be fooled by claims that Russian space industry would be isolated. I’m telling you that it will not. The US might isolate its own space industry from the world, I don’t know much about that.

  • Tonya

    “I want to explain…”

    The site you are looking for would be You may be lucky and find someone who shares your obsession.

  • Kapitalist

    You do not understand why ESA will continue its cooperation with Roscosmos (as will China, India, JAXA)

    But I understand why. In one sentence:
    Crimea is irrelevant to European and Asian politics.

    It’s as if the US invaded Hawaii, everyone already thought it was American, because it has been since centuries and the US already had a naval base there and everyone living their considered themselves American. Then suddenly some competing ananas exportes in the X-world claims it wasn’t and want to boycot Hawaiian ananases. (That is literally the intellectual level in this clowny sandbox)

  • windbourne

    Its funny. So many, like kapitalists, love to scream that America needs to do more to globalize. And yet, we are probably the most global of all nations. In fact, far too much, other than the fact that America can force the solution for CO2 emissions.

  • Tonya

    I’ve tried to be polite, but you obviously don’t understand that continuing to harass a woman with an unwelcome conversation is inappropriate.

    Disqus as a platform does not allow users to block other users. I do not wish to speak with you on any political matter, please respect that and cease.

    If you ignore this either here or in another article I will contact the site owner.

  • Kapitalist

    Government space policy IS a political issue!

  • Tonya

    A lot of truth in that, but space policy is still tightly connected to a nations defence.

    Europe is almost that story in reverse, the formation of Arianespace in many ways kicked off the whole commercial spaceflight story, Reagan’s Commercial Space Launch Act in 1984 was in large part a response to it.

    Now Europe’s major justification for continuing with launchers, even if they become uncompetitive, is independent access to space. The same justification used by every national space program.

  • Tonya

    This conversation has been has been flagged,

    Doug, I apologise for doing this. Could you please ask this user to cease contacting me any further on your site. Please contact me via a private channel if you have any questions for my reasons in requesting this.

  • Kapitalist

    So you deny that Rosmocosm and ESA are political agencies? You refuse to try to understand what politics guides ESA. And because you refuse to try to understand basic facts about the reality, you *flag* this post. Well, congratulations!

    I hope that your political ideology of refusal to understand basic things, don’t make you not understand that you must use the door to exit your room, so that you do not (again) slam your forehead hard on the wall while you continue to refuse to understand basic facts.

  • windbourne

    I have read your postings plenty here. It is obvious that you allow your own hatred of the west, esp. America to taint your logic, and thought process.
    Please note that Tonya has asked NICELY for you to leave her alone.
    You have absolutely no reason to troll here. NONE.
    You are obviously not interested in space, nor even economics (which is interesting considering your login).

    Please consider the idea of going to a better site that is suited for you over in Russia or Chinese blogs.

  • Kapitalist

    I’ve never expressed any kind of hatred of the West! I love the West!

    I try to inform you about how politicians in the West lie to you and destroy the West only in order to make personal profits from it. The political elite which today occupy the West IS NOT the West. You must separate the world of real human beings from the political elite which parasites upon them. US policy is extremely destructive for the interests of the American people. And if American misunderstandings about what European politics is, is a part of it then I can help clear that up.

    I am very much interested in space. The attempts to use the Crimea crises in order to cut down international cooperation in space exploration is despicable. And it fails. US gov might isolate NASA from the rest of the world, but the rest of the world is ignoring that charade and can do without a NASA which is used as a diplomatic sacrifiece instead of as an instrument for space exploration. The US is not at all what it has been, only the Americans seem not to have understood this yet.

  • GunillaBx

    Tonya. All you have to do is to stop harassing Kapitalist. I think you initiated this discussion and continued to reply and make your case. This IS a discussion forum. If you are not intrerested in dicussing with a particular person (like me, for instance), just ignore this post.

    Have a nice day, sister.

  • Tonya

    The top level post is mine. I only replied to Kapitalist on the topic once, my conversation was with Windbourne.

    All online communities require moderation. Without that they become dominated by aggressive individuals with no interest in a conversation, just in having a platform.

    I’ve been active in Internet companies since the earliest days of the web. I hold dual nationality in America and the UK and have worked and lived in several European countries, including Sweden where he appears to live. I have also been politically active for most of my life, and would bet that I know more about European history, politics and economics than the majority of people who read this site.

    Despite this, I can assure you he would have no interest in hearing my views, except to denigrate them and repeat his own. I know very well exactly what type of person Kapitalist is and where his views come from.

    I will continue to avoid him. If he doesn’t respect that, and interjects in the conversations I may have with others, I would expect the site owner (Doug) to moderate.

  • GunillaBx

    Okey dokey. Good luck with that…