No nation can be self-sufficient in manned space exploration now, the Director of Russia's Federal Space Agency, Anatoli Perminov, said at his first ever online news briefing Monday.
"Our priority today is to maintain the International Space Station in an operable condition and to complete its assembly. This wide-scale project is multinational. But in the present circumstances, Russia has to play a dominant role. Since American space shuttle flights were suspended [last February], we have had to carry [all ISS] crews on Soyuz vehicles and cargoes on Progresses."
But despite these difficulties, Russian space research continues its way forward. The Russian spacecraft maker Energia, for one, is now developing a universal vehicle, Kliper, Perminov said. He described the model as modern and viable, but said it needed further elaboration. He also said that specialists from other countries should be engaged in the project.
Soyuz spacecraft are becoming outdated and there is a need for a more powerful vehicle, one that would sit six people instead of just two or three, the Russian Space Agency chief said. The Kliper is intended not just for taking crews to the ISS and back, but also for interplanetary missions, including flights to Mars.
Russia discusses all its projects with other space powers," Perminov said. "I recently met with European Space Agency head Jean-Jacques Dordain, and we discussed this particular project, among others," he reported.
Already, there are customers interested in the launch of satellites into orbit with the help of the Soyuz booster, from the Kourou launching pad, in French Guyana, Perminov said. Negotiations over the project's financing are now underway, which he expects to be completed before the end of July, he said.
The construction of a new launching facility will get started at Kourou soon, Perminov announced. He said that the project, to be commissioned in 2006, would make it possible for all nations, including Latin American, to get involved in the launch of spacecraft. The man believes that Russia should actively develop collaborative projects with Latin American countries, especially Argentina and Brazil.
The Federal Space Program's 2006-2015 budget will be posted on the Federal Space Agency's website once it gets confirmed, Perminov said. The Federal Space Agency is now finalizing the draft, and will submit it to the Cabinet for approval by the year's end, he added.