Thursday, January 03, 2019

UPDATED: Don't Fire Up The SpaceX "Trampolines!" Roscosmos Head Dmitry Rogozin Isn't Visiting the US After All

          By Henry Stewart

Preparations for an upcoming US visit by Roscosmos State Corporation Director General Dmitry Rogozin are still moving forward despite growing criticism in the US.

DG Rogozin Photo c/o Sergey Savostyanov/TASS.

Last October, NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine extended an invitation for his Russian counterpart to visit NASA headquarters in Houston TX in the new year.

But others objected. As outlined in the January 1st, 2019 Politico post, "'Wow': NASA startles with invitation to sanctioned Russian," some Russian hawks considered Rogozin to be "no typical rocket-science technocrat. He is an ultranationalist politician with a record of stark racism and homophobia who is under American sanctions."

And that's a quote from a news story. Imagine the sort of comments the editorialists are generating.

To be fair to Rogazin, he's a well known public figure, in both Russia and the US. As outlined on his official Russian Government bio page, Rogozin has served terms in a variety of political positions including "Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation to the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO)" and Russian Deputy Prime Minister.

According to his Wikipedia entry:
Rogozin was involved in several diplomatic conflicts following the 2014 Crimean crisis. He was added to the sanctions list by the US, Canada and the European Union (EU) and had conflicts with Romania, after Romania barred his plane from entering its airspace and Moldova." 
Rogazin is also well known for his colorful language. As outlined in the April 29th, 2014 NBC News post, "Trampoline to Space? Russian Official Tells NASA to Take a Flying Leap," he once said that sanctions against the Russian space agency to protest Russian activities in the Crimea would have no effect, since American astronauts couldn't fly to the International Space Station (ISS) on a "trampoline."

At the time, he was referring to the lack of US capability to launch astronauts into space (they've been flying on Russian rockets since 2011 when the US Space shuttle program wound down). That situation will likely end this year as new, human rated rockets developed under the Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program are rolled-out, which could be part of the reason why Rogozin is visiting NASA.

Rogozin has also butted heads with the Canadian government. The April 28th, 2014 post, "M3MSat and the Politics of Dancing in the Crimea," noted a quote from the then deputy Russian Prime Minister stating that the Canadian government will certainly "have to pay – both in terms of money and reputation – for a decision to ditch the launch of its (Maritime Monitoring and Messaging Micro-Satellite or M3MSat) by a Russian rocket." M3MSat was rescheduled and eventually launched on June 22nd, 2016 from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in India. Graphic c/o CSB.

According to the Politico post, NASA Administrator Bridenstine also:
...told the Russian state news agency TASS in mid-October that he had succeeded in temporarily waiving sanctions on Rogozin so that he could visit Houston and speak at Rice University, Bridenstine’s alma mater, sometime after the new year.  
The US and Russia cooperate extensively on space exploration and, according to the TASS report, Bridenstine stressed the need for a “strong working relationship” with his counterpart...
More recently, and as outlined in the January 2nd, 2019 TASS post, "NASA prepares for Roscosmos chief's visit underway despite criticism in Washington," plans for the visit are still moving forward although specifics are hard to come by.

But the harsh words from critics are continuing, at least for now. This may not matter to Bridenstine, who is looking for specific commitments from Russia and others (including Canada) to commit to the NASA's Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway (LOP-G), or Rogozin.

As outlined in the July 10th, 2018 post, "The Russian Space Program is Entering a Dark Age," Rogozin has his own domestic concerns to contend with.

Space is one of the few areas where the US and Russia have managed to cooperate. Here's hoping that cooperation continues.
Editors Note: Almost as soon as the above article was posted and, as outlined in the January 7th, 2019 Politico Space post, "More friction in U.S.-Russia space relationship," came word from NASA that the US "has revoked its invitation to Russia’s top space official, Dmitry Rogozin, after fierce pushback from lawmakers over Rogozin’s history of racist and homophobic remarks and because he is under sanctions for involvement in the annexation of Crimea." 
The chorus of lawmakers was led by Democratic senators Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire and Robert Menendez of New Jersey. The Russians also seem to have cooled  to the idea of participating in the proposed US led NASA Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway (LOP-G). 
The article quoted Brian Weeden, a technical adviser at the Washington DC based Secure World Foundation, who said that "the International Space Station isn’t in jeopardy, but the shifting geopolitical landscape and political tensions are going to create challenges for the next relationship (building the LOP-G)."

Henry Stewart is the pseudonym of a Toronto based aerospace writer.

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