US-Russia deal on Orion

US-Russia-deal-on-OrionUS aerospace giants Boeing and Lockheed Martin have signed a deal with Russia’s Energia (the Russian and Rocket Space Corporation) to work collaboratively on the next generation of human space vehicles.

In a historic agreement, the three primary manufacturing organizations involved in US and Russian government funded human space flight vehicles will work together to provide a compatible docking interface, allowing the Orion spacecraft to dock with any Russian space facility and thereby ensuring a continued international co-operation in flagship space projects.

The step is important as each country sets a slightly different path to future space exploration involving astronauts and cosmonauts. NASA is building a deep-space transportation infrastructure which will eventually include habitats to extend the amount of time astronauts can remain on such flights. Orion is unable to provide acceptable habitability beyond approximately 21 days and additional modules and living quarters will be required for long duration flights.

The Russians have identified a new space station as a stepping stone to flights to the Moon and Mars and as such are apparently focused more attentively on habitats rather than transportation systems. The integration of Russian and American space objectives could lead to an international endeavour involving European, and perhaps Chinese, involvement in the future.

To facilitate such activity the agreement for a common docking unit would allow all space-faring parties to join such an alliance and move beyond Earth as an international expedition for the Moon bases and Mars traverses envisaged by countries presently aligned through the International Space Station.

The Russian government has said that the parlous state of the Russian economy will not be allowed to interfere with plans for a new space station and a Moon mission now being discussed, as these, it says, are fundamental to the future of Russia as a country and as an international partner.

David Baker
Spaceflight Editor

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