Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev has approved a budget of more than two trillion rubles, equivalent to almost $70 billion and more than 50 billion Euros for the development of the Russian space program from 2013 to 2020.
Prime Minister Medvedev stated that the strengthening of the Russian space program will lead his nation to a major involvement in projects such as the International Space Station, the study of the Moon, Mars and other celestial bodies in the solar system. Some of those are collaborations with other nations, others are projects that Roscosmos, the Russian space agency, will develop on its own.
A few months ago, Prime Minister Medvedev criticized the state of Russia’s space industry, which over the past two years has accumulated a number of failures. Problems in two launches that used the Proton-M rocket led to the loss of three satellites. In early December, another launch that used a Proton-M rocket led to the placement of a satellite in the wrong orbit but its engine allowed to correct it.
The great humiliation for Russia came from the failure of the Phobos-Grunt mission. Last year, the space mission that was supposed to bring a Russian probe to Mars didn’t even go beyond the Earth’s orbit. The project was very ambitious and not even being able to send a probe towards Mars was a big blow.
The Russian space industry has a number of problems including low wages, the high average age of the employees of the companies involved and the obsolescence of many equipment used. Russian participation in running the International Space Station consumes up to half of the budget but for Russia it’s a matter of prestige.
An aid for the Russian space industry came after the end of the Space Program Space Shuttle. In fact, now and for the near future, Russia will manage the launches of rockets carrying astronauts to the International Space Station. However, NASA and some private companies are developing new solutions so in a few years the situation will change.
The profits for the Russian space industry also come thanks to the launch of satellites, often foreign ones. It’s a branch of economics that today is really important but the American and European competitors are investing heavily in improved or even new rockets.
Now the budget for the next years has been increased, will that be enough? It’s obvious that the existing problems are to be solved but for Russia national prestige is also at stake and that matters a lot. Energia, the largest Russian space company, has just announced plans for a new spaceship able not only to reach the International Space Station but also the Moon. It’s expected to fly in 2018. Meanwhile, new space probes are scheduled be sent to the Moon and Venus and from their results we’ll start seeing if the Russian space program will really come back to high levels.