China Ready to Cooperate with Russia on Orbital Space Station

Artist’s conception of China’s Tianhe-1 space station. (Credit: China Manned Space Engineering)

Tass quotes China National Space Administration Secretary General Li Guoping as saying his nation is ready to cooperate with Russia, Germany and France on a future space station.

“Russia is one of China’s main partners in space cooperation,” he said adding that the two countries held annual meetings devoted to cooperation in space exploration. Both countries, he said, were pushing ahead with joint aerospace projects in accordance with China’s program for 2018-2022.

“Lunar studies are one of the guidelines in our cooperation,” Li said. “As far as China’s orbital station is concerned, it is in the construction phase and will be completed by 2022. We intend to cooperate with many countries, including Russia, Germany and France on this project.”

It’s not clear exactly what such cooperation would entail. European Space Agency (ESA) astronauts are training with China for future flights aboard Shenzhou spacecraft.

Shenzhou spacecraft will serve the multi-module Tianhe-1 space station, whose core module is to be launched in 2020.  The orbiting facility will be roughly the size of Russia’s decommissioned Mir station and have about one-fifth the volume of the International Space Station.

China is also pursuing an aggressive program to explore the moon with international cooperation. The ambitious Chang’e-4 mission — which includes a lander, rover, orbiter and two CubeSats  — includes instruments and experiments from Germany, Sweden, The Netherlands and Saudi Arabia.

Roscosmos Director General Dmitry Rogozin said Russia could turn to cooperation with China if it is not given an appropriate role in NASA-led plans for a crewed Lunar Gateway that would orbit the moon in the 2020’s.

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine recently rescinded an invitation to Rogozin to visit the United States for consultation with agency leaders. The decision came after an uproar over the Trump Administration’s decision to grant an exemption to Rogozin, who cannot travel to the United States due to sanctions imposed after Russia invaded Ukraine and annexed Crimea.

An angry Roscosmos has demanded an explanation from NASA, noting pointedly that negotiations on the Lunar Gateway and extending operations of the International Space Station beyond 2024 have “not yet been suspended.”

  • Robert G. Oler

    LOL hope they have a great time together

  • Saturn1300

    Unlike the no uproar the last time he visited. My poor memory. I think he did. I have not checked. I think that odd looking plane flying by during my walk looked like it had Russia Airline markings. From KSC to JSC. Just flying by to look at Tampa Bay. No. Yes. Maybe I have been too hard on Russia. Naw.

  • therealdmt

    Bridenstine hasn’t been the anti-science guy I feared he’d be, but he really screwed the pooch with his Rogozin invite. I can’t blame him for trying to smooth relations with our big space partner, but there are real reasons that those relations are frayed, reasons bigger than the space programs.

    Meanwhile, he investigates SpaceX for safety culture while sending his astronauts right back up on a rocket type that just failed and a culture that has not only had a number of other recent (non-manned) launch failures, but decaying infrastructure, poor morale at least two instances of holes in their manned spacecraft.

    Anyway, I don’t hate Bridenstine — he surely felt pressured from the OldSpace-Alabama contingent to do something to take SpaceX down a notch. It may have been the least he could do and still be able to claim that he “took strong action”…

    Main thing — I hope we can get Russia to agree to extend the ISS to 2028-ish. After that, we don’t really need them and they no longer seem worth the added aggravation. But they know that, too. If China presents a real alternative, they may well say bye-bye to us first, and sooner rather than later

  • ThomasLMatula

    Maybe we could sell the Chinese our share in the ISS. It would free NASA to start leasing from commercial space starions.

    As bonus we could also offer them the SLS with its cutting edge 70’s technology to sweeten the deal 😄

  • Kirk

    “… at least two instances of holes in their manned spacecraft.”

    Two? I know of the one in the orbital module of Soyuz MS-09. Which one did I miss?

  • Smokey_the_Bear

    That’s a good partnership, Russia has a lot of expertise, but has real problems that “therealdmt” already highlighted. China is trying to spread it’s “space wings”, and wants a solid partner who can help them out. Like Thomas said, I would also like to ditch the ISS, but not until we have a replacement already in space. Should be able to launch some impressive Bigelow stations in a couple years on the Starship or New Glenn.

  • therealdmt

    I’ll have to try to look it up. It was found on the ground, iirc, not in flight, so it wasn’t such a big story. Plus it happened a while ago now. Anyway, I’ll try to find a reference. Who knows, I could be full of crap, lol 😀

    However, Russia’s program be a-illlin’, and that’s no doubt

  • therealdmt

    Here ya go (sorry for the link to a different site, Doug, but he asked):

    The linked to article is on the most recent leak discovered on orbit, but the relevant portion (referencing a Russian news article that was translated for Ars) reads:

    “A former employee of the company who is now a professor at Moscow State University told another Russian publication that these kinds of incidents have occurred before at Energia.

    “I have conducted investigations of all kinds of spacecraft, and after landing, we discovered a hole drilled completely through the hull of a re-entry module,” the former Energia employee, Viktor Minenko, said in Gazeta.RU. “But the technician didn’t report the defect to anyone but sealed up the hole with epoxy. We found the person, and after a commotion he was terminated,” said Minenko.”

  • Jeff2Space

    Russia is cash strapped, but they have experience. China lacks experience, but has provided steady funding for its space program. I wouldn’t underestimate them. After all, most of what China has done with their crewed space program is based on technology they acquired from Russia.

  • duheagle

    The Rogozin invite was certainly an unforced error on Bridenstine’s part, but not one that is likely to matter much in the larger scheme of things. If it actually plays any role in detaching Russia from us and making them China’s problem in future this Rogozin kerfuffle could even wind up being a big plus.

    No one in the Trump administration is “anti-science.” What they are is anti-fraud.

    The anti-SpaceX machinations pretty obviously emanate from MSFC and a certain senior senator from Alabama. Bridenstine does not enjoy the luxury of rule by decree so the degree to which he can affect these internal NASA political tides is limited.

    You are entirely correct to point out the arrant hypocrisy of NASA’s “safety” bureaucrats having repeated attacks of the vapors over ever more recondite theoretical “issues” with D2 when U.S. astronauts are being hung out to dry riding increasingly rickety Russian craft that have had a number of concrete and scary actual failures and misadventures.

    I was once in favor of extending ISS for as long as possible too. But I now think that it would be better to fold that particular tent in 2024 rather than stretch it to 2028 or 2030 as some are now urging. It’s time for the U.S. to insist that the private sector either make good on all the brave talk of human-tended commerce in LEO or admit that there is no closable business case for same. I like what Nanoracks and Made In Space have done on ISS, but it’s time for both to wean themselves from the NASA teat.

    There is equally, to be frank, no advantage at all to the U.S. in continuing to be saddled with the perpetually cranky and ungrateful Russian welfare clients with whom we currently share occupancy of ISS for another dozen years, or even 10. Let them try their arrogant brand of mendicancy on the Chinese and see how they fare. If it was me calling the shots, I’d already have the headstone on order – “Soviet/Russian Manned Space Program b. 4-12-1961 d. XX-XX-2024 RIP.

  • duheagle

    Yes. Confusion to the enemy – both of them.

  • duheagle

    But the Russians no longer have anything of consequence to offer that the Chinese haven’t long since bought. The market value of Russian arrogance and presumption is less than zero, especially in China. No non-Chinese entity is ever going to be allowed to do more anent the Chinese space program than sit prettily in the back of the convertible, smile and wave to the crowd. The Europeans will be okay with this, but the Russians won’t. So this “threatened” combine will either never actually happen in any consequential way, or will blow itself to flinders in fairly short order should the Chinese be so foolish as to take the Russians on as “partners.”

  • publiusr

    I want ISS to have chinese modules myself. Be–oh Idon’t know–and International space station?

  • Kirk

    Thanks Cookie Monster!