I stumbled across a transcript from a press conference held Tuesday by Anatoly Perminov, head of Roskosmos. If you skim past the introduction, where Perminov goes through some launch statistics from 2005, Perminov had a few interesting things to say about Russia’s space program and its plans for the future:
- Roskosmos plans to issue a request for proposals for the Kliper spacecraft on January 18. Only three organizations will be allowed to bid for the project: Energia, Khrunichev, and NPO Molniya. Since Kliper has been an Energia project, and since Roskosmos effectively controls Energia, this bidding process may be little more than a formality.
- This year was the first year when the government fully funded all of Roskosmos’ programs “in spite of the lag in financing over the past years”.
- Roskosmos and NASA signed an agreement late last week to cover NASA’s purchases of Russian flight services. NASA will pay cash for seats on Soyuz flights and cargo on Progress spacecraft, but Perminov declined to state how much NASA is paying: “we too have our commercial secrets.” He added that he hopes in the first half of 2006 to reach “a comprehensive agreement with NASA on ISS until the year 2011″.
- A “waiting list” of space tourists and astronauts from other countries who want to fly on Soyuz spacecraft has formed. Perminov said Russia is looking at ways to increase the Soyuz production rate.
- Perinov said that Roskosmos can meet the accelerated deadline for the replenishment of the GLONASS satellite navigation system requested by President Putin earlier this week, but that this “will require additional funding and we are going to make relevant proposals.”
- The Russian Defense Ministry is in the process of handing over all the infrastructure at the Baikonur Cosmodrome to Roskosmos, a process that will be completed by the end of 2007.
While Perminov put the best spin possible on these developments, one thing he said made it clear that the Russian space program is far from the glory days of the old Soviet era:
I repeat, we can no longer engage in competition. It is impossible to compete, given the current level of financing. We are lagging behind in many spheres such as unmanned spacecraft, interplanetary research, exploration of other planets. Nothing can be done about it.