Roscosmos Plans Cooperation on Chinese Space Station, Prepares to Dump GPS in Russian Airliners and Ship New ICBMs

Roscosmos boss Dmitry Rogozin meets with Russia’s boss of bosses, President Vladimir Putin. (Credit: Russian President’s Office)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Vowing that cooperation in space with the West will resume on Russia’s terms, Roscosmos Director General Dmitry Rogozin said the space corporation is eyeing cooperation on China’s space station and begun efforts to replace the American Global Positioning System (GPS) in airplanes with Russian GLONASS satellite navigation system that is also capable of receiving navigation signals from China’s Beidou satellite constellation.

Rogozin also said Roscosmos plans to begin shipments of silo-based hypersonic Sarmat intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) in the fall amid continued tensions with the West over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The rocket was successfully test fired on Wednesday.

This image shows the planned configuration of six iROSA solar arrays intended to augment power on the International Space Station. The roll-up arrays arrive on the SpaceX-22 resupply mission. (Credits: NASA/Johnson Space Center/Boeing)

Rogozin previously said Russia would end cooperation on the International Space Station (ISS) after nearly 30 years. TASS reports Roscosmos is looking to redirect the program toward cooperation on China’s multi-module Tiangong space station, which was launched a year ago.

“Cooperation with the Chinese side in this sphere has been organized within the framework of the joint Russian-Chinese commission for cooperation in manned cosmonautics,” the Roscosmos press office said…

Roscosmos Chief Dmitry Rogozin said in an interview with China’s CGTN TV Channel in early April that Russia and China might discuss the construction of joint modules for the Tiangong space station. Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Wang Wenbin said that China was inviting cosmonauts from other countries to join projects on the Chinese orbital station that would launch its operations in normal mode by late 2022.

For his part, Director of China Manned Space Agency (CMSA) Hao Chun said that the Chinese authorities were set to use their national orbital station together with Russia and other countries on an equitable basis, in spite of the complex geopolitical situation in the world.

China plans to complete initial construction of Tiangong later this year with the launch of the Wentian and Mengtian science modules, which will be docked to the Tianhe station core. The configure will be similar in size to Russia’s retired Mir space station, but there are docking ports for additional spacecraft and modules.

Chinese space station after assembly. (Credit: CASC)

China’s human space program borrowed heavily from Russia’s program. China’s Shenzhou crew transports are similar to Russia’s Soyuz spacecraft used to send cosmonauts to ISS. Chinese spacesuits and other technologies are also similar to Russian versions.

Russia’s ISS partners — United States, Canada, Europe and Japan — previously agreed to extend space station operations until 2024. In December, NASA announced plans to extend operations to 2030. Rogozin has said it would be impossible for the other partners to continue with ISS if Russia pulls out. NASA officials have said it would be difficult to do so.

The 11-person crew aboard the station comprises of (clockwise from bottom right) Expedition 67 Commander Tom Marshburn with Flight Engineers Oleg Artemyev, Denis Matveev, Sergey Korsakov, Raja Chari, Kayla Barron, and Matthias Maurer; and Axiom Mission 1 astronauts (center row from left) Mark Pathy, Eytan Stibbe, Larry Conner, and Michael Lopez-Alegria. (Credits: NASA)

Russia’s relations with the West have frayed over economic sanctions imposed over the Ukraine invasion, which is now in its second month. TASS reports that Rogozin remains defiant despite damage done to the Russian space and defense sectors.

According to Rogozin, professionals in the West understand that “it (sanctions against Roscosmos – TASS) is insanity.” “I know such people both in NASA and in SpaceX <…>. I know such people in Europe. They think that what is going on is horrible. Because it ruins their own plans, hopes and dreams. They understand that these are inadmissible actions of bureaucrats,” he said. “Those who impose sanctions have nothing to do with space exploration.”

“Cooperation will be resumed in this or that format, but it will be resumed with other focuses,” he stressed. “Because we will now work first of all with those countries, which have either constructive or, at least, neutral position. And when the dust settles, those who imposed sanctions will have to speak with us on our conditions.”.

A Soyuz-2 rocket launches a Glonass K navigation satellite from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome on Oct. 25, 2020. (Credit: Russian Ministry of Defense)

TASS reports that Roscosmos has also taken steps to have Russian airlines replace GPS receivers in their aircraft with Russia’s GLONASS system.

“Today we will send the Transport Ministry and Rosaviatsia our technical proposals on replacing GPS with GLONASS user equipment that will also be able to receive the navigation signal from the Chinese Beidou orbital navigation system with whose administration we have been successfully interacting for eight years,” the Roscosmos chief wrote on his Telegram channel.

Roscosmos earlier cautioned that GPS could be switched off while Russian airlines kept taking on lease and purchasing foreign airliners, ignoring the requirement of installing GLONASS equipment, Rogozin said.

“Now they will hastily have to look for a solution. This solution is the only one: to set up GLONASS stations at all airports for providing the high-precision navigation signal and install GLONASS receivers on all airliners operational in our country,” the Roscosmos chief stressed.

Russia and China have worked to make the GLONASS and Beidou navigation systems interoperable. China’s Beidou system has increasingly challenged GPS as a preferred satellite navigation system worldwide.

Note: As of June 28, 2019. Adapted from Kazuhiro Kida and Shinichi Hashimoto, “China’s Version of GPS Now Has More Satellites than US Original,” Nikkei Asian Review, August 19, 2019.

Rogozin said Roscosmos plans to begin shipping the Sarmat ICBM that was tested earlier this week. TASS reports:

“Following flight tests of the Sarmat, we plan to start shipments of volume produced heavy intercontinental ballistic missiles of this super weapon to the Strategic Missile Forces this fall,” he said on Telegram…

The range of the Sarmat warheads has been expanded in terms of the number of warheads and their types, including gliding hypersonic warheads. The missile was developed by the Makeyev State Missile Center and is produced at the Krasmash plant. Both are Roscosmos units. Analysts say the missile can deliver a warhead weighing up to 10 tons to any location across the world over the South and North poles.

TASS reports that the Russian Ministry of Defense reported a successful test of the new missile on Wednesday.

“Today, at 15:12 Moscow time, a Sarmat silo-based intercontinental ballistic missile was successfully test-launched from a silo launcher at the Plesetsk state testing cosmodrome in the Arkhangelsk Region,” the ministry said in a statement.

“The launch’s tasks were achieved in full. The designated characteristics were confirmed at all the stages of its flight. The practice warheads arrived at the designated area at the Kura proving ground on the Kamchatka Peninsula,” the ministry added.

During the first flight tests of the cutting-edge heavy missile with the MIRVed (multiple independently targetable vehicle) warheads, the correctness of its design, structural and technical solutions was assessed. The breakthrough Sarmat ICBM will enter service with Russia’s Strategic Missile Force after the program of its tests is over. The Sarmat is due to replace the Voyevoda ICBM.

American defense officials have expressed alarm over Russian and Chinese advances in hypersonic missiles, saying the United States has fallen behind in this vital military technology.