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Russia is skeptical of participating in Lunar Gateway



WASHINGTON – The head of the Russian space agency said that the Lunar Gateway, part of NASA’s Artemis lunar exploration program, is too “US-centric” to participate, even though the Gateway leverages the current partnership of the International Space Station .

During a panel with the heads of seven space agencies at the International Astronautics Congress on October 12, Dmitry Rogozin, general manager of Roscosmos, said his agency is unlikely to play a major role in the Gateway despite the expected participation of other partners of the ISS, including Canada, Europe and Japan.

“In our view, the moon portal in its current form is too US-centric, so to speak,” Rogozin said through an interpreter. “Russia is likely to refrain from participating on a large scale.”

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During a subsequent press conference, Rogozin elaborated on his problems with the Gateway. “The most important thing here would be to base this program on the principles of international cooperation that were used to fly the ISS program,” he said, such as collective decision making between the station’s partners.

“If we could go back to considering making these principles the foundation of the program, Roscosmos could also consider participating,” del Gateway said.

Rogozin’s comments on attempting to use the ISS as a model for the moon portal are surprising as this is already NASA’s approach to developing it. NASA had previously announced that it would extend the existing intergovernmental agreement, or IGA, for the space station to the Gateway, although it seeks a new set of agreements, called the Artemis Agreements, for the larger Artemis program.

“The Gateway uses the intergovernmental agreement established for the International Space Station,” NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine said in an interview after the conference session. “All the protocols that exist on the International Space Station would also exist for the Gateway, so I don’t think that’s a challenge.”

NASA worked with each ISS partner on a memorandum of understanding (MOU) that would extend the ISS agreement for use on the Gateway. Bridenstine said that, in February, NASA asked Roscosmos to comment on how a potential MOU between the two agencies would work. “We are still waiting for a response from them,” he said.

Rogozin said that even if Russia did not decide to participate in the Gateway, it wanted to make sure it used standard docking interfaces so that Russian spacecraft could dock with it. “We need to have at least two space transport systems,” he said, referring to Russian plans for a next-generation manned spacecraft called Orel. The standards for docking would allow Orel to dock with the Gateway “even if we pursue two autonomous programs”.

NASA is already pursuing those standards, Bridenstine said. “We broadly agree with Roscosmos that we need international standards for interoperability,” he said, including not only docking but also other areas, from communications to life support systems. Interoperability, he noted, is one of the principles of the Artemis agreements.

It also supported the development of a Russian transportation system capable of delivering crews to the Gateway. “If we have dissimilar redundancy for transportation to the Gateway and ultimately to the moon, that’s very good,” he said. “We are very much in favor of this.”

“What the Artemis agreements are really about is working out those fundamental principles that we all agree on so that when we explore these worlds together, there is something in common,” Bridenstine told the press conference. “The whole purpose is to prevent misperceptions.”


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