European Space Agency Has No Plans to Develop Space Tourism - Chief to Sputnik
© AP PhotoThis image provided by the European Space Agency (ESA) shows the European rocket Ariane 5 ECA lifting off in Kourou, French Guiana, carrying a payload of precious satellites, Saturday Feb.12, 2005. The launch of europe's most powerful rocket was successful, more than two years after its inaugural flight in disaster
© AP Photo
COLORADO SPRINGS (Sputnik) - Space tourism is good for space in general but the European Space Agency (ESA) is currently not planning to develop it, ESA Director General Josef Aschbacher told Sputnik.
"I think it is interesting to see that space is going into a wider domain, including space tourism. I consider this is good for the development of the space economy in general."Aschbacher said on the sidelines of the 36th Space Symposium.
At the same time, Aschbacher said ESA’s focus was invested elsewhere in space exploration.
"At ESA we have currently no program planned to develop space tourism as an activity because the activities of ESA focus on exploring space for science and for technology development," the Director General said.
Aschbacher stressed, however, that the debate around the sustainability of spaceflight should not be left by the wayside in the realm of space tourism.
"Today's space flights are done for research, technology development, and, of course, with tourism this is not the case," he explained. "There's a big debate on some of these aspects of what the purpose of space tourism is and what is the impact it has on the environment in the wider sense. But this is a discussion that takes place in the public domain. There's no position of ESA in that regard."
Aschbacher added that he has also seen different ideas and projects that are being developed.
13 November 2020, 11:28 GMT
"I think this is mostly in the hands of private enterprises in order to develop the segment," he said. "At ESA we have currently no programme planned to develop space tourism as an activity because the activities of ESA focus on exploring space for science and for technology development."
ESA, Roscosmos Committed to Meeting ExoMars September 2022 Launch Window
Launching the joint ExoMars mission next year is a priority for both the European Space Agency (ESA) and Roscosmos, and the two agencies are committed to meeting the launch window of September 2022, Aschbacher told Sputnik.
Due to the varying orbits of Earth and Mars, optimal windows for launching spacecraft to the Red Planet are plotted for in advance. Missing windows may entail delays of months or even years.
"We need to make sure that we meet the launch window of September 2022. This is an extremely important priority and we are both committed to ensuring that the launch window is not missed," Aschbacher told Sputnik on the sidelines of the 36th Space Symposium. "We have still important work to do on ExoMars, because this is a joint Russian-ESA project and there are some technical issues which we still need to solve together."
He went on to emphasize that readying the project on time was "a priority at the moment for both Mr. [Dmitry] Rogozin and for myself."
Aschbacher noted that deliberations about the length of testing are underway at the moment.
"There's a discussion whether the tests or the duration of these tests need to be as long as currently planned, five months, or whether we can shorten them in order to recover some delays during the earlier phase of development," he explained.
Other matters, that need to be addressed, concern some industrial cooperation, the Director General added.
"I rely on Mr. Rogozin to do his utmost, obviously together with our ESA teams partners, to make sure that we can launch ExoMars next year," Josef Aschbacher stated.
The launch of the ExoMars mission is scheduled for the period between September 20 and October 1 of 2022 aboard a Proton-M carrier rocket from Baikonur. The mission itself consists of European and Russian hardware contributions, which will include a Russian lander named Kazachok and a European rover named Rosalind Franklin. If the launch window remains unchanged, they are expected to land on Mars on June 10, 2023.
Roscosmos Offered European Space Agency Extended Use of Soyuz in French Guiana
Russian space agency Roscosmos has offered the European Space Agency (ESA) to continue using Russia’s Soyuz carrier rockets from the Kourou spaceport in French Guiana for different payloads, and the talks are ongoing, Aschbacher added.
“The extended use of Soyuz is one of the topics we're considering right now. In fact, I have discussed it with Mr. [Dmitry] Rogozin during our last video conference,” Aschbacher said on the margins of the 36th Space Symposium. “We do not yet have the answer to Mr. Rogozin’s offer for extended use of Soyuz from Kourou for different payloads, including from international partners. One option is to continue the service of Roscosmos as we are using it today. But one could also expand the service. For the time being no decision made but I appreciate the offer made by Roscosmos - to further increase the Soyuz launch base in Kourou.”
Aschbacher pointed out that such an expansion of services would require investments in order to upgrade some of the facilities in Kourou.
“This is something that, of course, our member states will have to consider because investments in ESA are always decided by the member states,” he added.
The Director General stressed that the cooperation between ESA and Roscosmos on the use of Soyuz has always been sound and fruitful for both sides.
“ESA and Russia have a long-standing cooperation in several domains. The most visible is certainly the use of Soyuz,” he said. “We have launched quite a few satellites with the Russian Soyuz, both from Kourou and Baikonur, but also with Rokot in the past. And this was always very reliable, very successful and going very well. We have longstanding and I am glad to say, a very fruitful cooperation with Russia on this domain.”
Roscosmos launch vehicles, chief among them Soyuz , have long been on the spacefaring market as a stable delivery system to the Earth’s orbit. Roscosmos is currently in the testing phase of the Angara class of launcher, set to deliver the largest payloads ever sent to space.
ESA Says Members Discussing Russia, China Invitation to Lunar Research Station Project
The member states of the ESA (European Space Agency) are discussing an offer made by Russia and China on possible participation in the International Lunar Research Station (ILRS), with no decision reached yet, Aschbacher told Sputnik.
"As you know, I have an invitation from both Mr. [Dmitry] Rogozin, the Director General of Roscosmos and the Administrator of the China National Space Administration – to consider participation in the ILRS. This invitation is being discussed right now with ESA member states," Aschbacher told Sputnik on the sidelines of the 36th Space Symposium. "There is no answer yet because this requires programmatic analysis and needs a deeper discussion with the member states."
The director general stressed that the matter also concerns financial commitments, and underscored that this would be a parallel investment of ESA's member states in addition to the engagement they have on the United States’ lunar project Gateway.
"ESA is committed already to lunar cooperation through an agreement with NASA to participate in the Gateway," he explained. "And there we have in fact, already provided the Orion service module for the launch of Artemis I. Several other service modules are being procured right now for the cooperation with NASA for future Artemis launches."
In March, Russia reaffirmed its lunar exploration ambitions by signing a memorandum on cooperation with China's National Space Administration on the creation of the ILRS.
"This offer to participate on ILRS is on the table, [participation in ILRS], some of the decisions have yet to be made. But yes, these are possibilities," Aschbacher concluded.
The ILRS has been conceived as a scientific experiment base on the lunar surface and orbit aimed at carrying out multi-disciplinary and multi-objective scientific research activities, including lunar exploration and observation.
In late March, Russian scientists also announced plans to send a capsule with Earth microorganisms to the moon and leave it for several years to assess the effect of lunar conditions on biological objects.
ESA Chief Says Hopes to Meet Roscosmos Head at Int'l Astronautical Congress in Dubai
Aschbacher noted that he is hopeful to have his first in-person meeting with Roscosmos chief Dmitry Rogozin at the International Astronautical Congress (IAC) in October in the UAE.
"I hope so. I understand Mr. Rogozin plans to come to the IAC in Dubai, and I'm going as well, unless COVID is not allowing it," Aschbacher said. "And yes, then we would have our first face-to-face meeting," Aschbacher on the sidelines of the 36th Space Symposium.
He went on to say that if their paths did not cross at the October conference, ongoing cooperation between the ESA and Roscosmos would certainly bring them together at other occasions.
"If Dubai does not materialize, there may be other upcoming opportunities, certainly at the launch of ExoMars at the latest. But I would be very happy to have an early occasion for a personal meeting," the Director Geenral said.
Aschbacher, who officially assumed his duties in March, revealed that he has had two virtual meetings with his Russian counterpart.
"One was in March. And the other one was about a month ago," he noted. "The first one, was more for me as new Director General to get to know each other. This was more generic. The second one was really focusing on cooperation items and in particular on ExoMars."
Aschbacher also shared that recently he was invited for the launch of ERA (European Robotic Arm), and he wanted to come.
"I had booked my ticket and my flight. But then the Multi-purpose Laboratory Module and ERA launch were shifted by a couple of days and the new date did not make it possible for me anymore, which I regret" he said. There will certainly be other opportunities."
European Space Chief Says Discussed Postponement of Luna-25 Launch With Head of Roscosmos
Aschbacher also told Sputnik on the sidelines of the 36th Space Symposium that he has spoken about the rescheduling of the launch of the automatic interplanetary station Luna-25 with Roscosmos chief Dmitry Rogozin during their latest virtual meeting.
"We have discussed this topic in the last meeting with Mr. Rogozin, and he already indicated that there is a high likelihood that the launch will be postponed," Aschbacher said.
The ESA is collaborating with Russian space corporation Roscosmos on the Luna missions by providing European technologies and equipment for the Luna exploration missions, such as Luna-25, Luna-26 and Luna-27. The Luna-27 lander will use a European optical navigation system called PILOT.
Roscosmos said on Friday that the launch of Luna-25 from the Vostochny spaceport was postponed to May 2022 from October 2021 for additional testing of the spacecraft's equipment.
Roscosmos clarified that the lunar mission was fully equipped with standard instruments and systems, but there was a need for checks to ensure the required reliability of Russia’s return mission to the Moon.
Luna-25 should become the first mission in the history of modern Russia launched to the Moon. The previous spacecraft, Luna-24, was launched by the Soviet Union back in 1976. Initially but the launch was delayed due to the unavailability of the spacecraft.
ESA Hopes for ISS Extension, Considers Discussions on Investing in New Stations Premature
he European Space Agency (ESA) hopes that the International Space Station (ISS) will be extended beyond the year 2024 and believes that any discussions on investing in new station projects are not necessary at this point, Aschbacher told Sputnik.
“I hope that the international space station goes beyond 2024, and if that is the case, then ESA will certainly engage itself in the future use of the space station,” Aschbacher said. “This is my working assumption today.”
The Director General went on to say that the onus was on NASA to facilitate the prolonged livelihood of the ISS project.
“The key decision on the future of the ISS certainly is with NASA, being the biggest partner of the ISS… NASA is expected to make its decision in the near future whether to extend the ISS or not,” he said. “From the European perspective, we would welcome an extension, because we believe that the ISS is a very important research facility.”
He added that the ESA was still behind the project but that the funding allocation still depended on the agreement of its 22 member states.
“Of course, we need to ask for the agreement of my member States to cover the financial costs. This will be proposed to the ministerial conference next year. But from my perspective, I would welcome an extension, of course, provided that our member states agree to provide the necessary funding,” Aschbacher said.
In late July, the Scientific and Technical Council of Roscosmos recommended laying groundwork for construction of a new national space station "in order to avoid risks related to the technical condition of the Russian section of the ISS, and [due to] the plans to end its use by 2028.”
When asked on possible participation in the Russian orbital station, the Director General said,
“Today, I have no reason to believe that we would not engage ourselves for another four or six years in the international space station,” he added.
ESA Says Made No Proposals for Human Space Flight on Soyuz, Could Be Option in Future
The European Space Agency (ESA) currently has not made concrete proposals on having human space flights on Russian Soyuz from the Kourou spaceport in French Guiana, however, considers it to be one possible option, Aschbacher added.
© REUTERS / ROSCOSMOSThe Soyuz MS-18 spacecraft carrying the crew formed of Mark Vande Hei of NASA and cosmonauts Oleg Novitskiy and Pyotr Dubrov of Roscosmos blasts off to the International Space Station (ISS) from the launchpad at the Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan April 9, 2021.
The Soyuz MS-18 spacecraft carrying the crew formed of Mark Vande Hei of NASA and cosmonauts Oleg Novitskiy and Pyotr Dubrov of Roscosmos blasts off to the International Space Station (ISS) from the launchpad at the Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan April 9, 2021.
“There’s not a concrete proposal at the moment on the table,” Aschbacher said. “Of course, discussions on human-rated space flight would need to go through a very clear procedure, which means preparing proposals for our member states for funding through the ministerial conference. At this point in time, we do not have concrete proposals for human-rated or human space flight on Soyuz from Kourou in our package for next year. But certainly, this could be one option in the future,” Aschbacher said to Sputnik on the sidelines of the 36th Space Symposium.
German Astronaut Will Wear Russian Spacesuit
Aschbacher confirmed to Sputnik that ESA astronaut Matthias Mauerer will use the Russian Orlan-MKS spacesuit to perform spacewalks becoming the first non-Russian in a decade to do so.
“Yes, he will have to wear the Russian Orlan-MKS spacesuit because he will perform an EVA [extravehicular activity] on the Russian segment,” Aschbacher said on the sidelines of the 36th Space Symposium. “He will be working to install the ERA [European Robotic Arm] manipulator on the Nauka module.”
Mauerer is scheduled to fly to the ISS aboard the Crew Dragon in October this year as part of Expedition 66.
The ERA is a manipulator robot designed somewhat like a human arm — with an elbow, shoulders and even wrists — with two control systems. Its mission will be to "walk" around the Russian segment of the ISS and carry heavy cargo, including scientific equipment.
During spacewalks by Russian cosmonauts in January 2022, the ISS crew will unfold the manipulator and prepare it for use. It will later transport equipment from the Rassvet module for further installation on the newly-arrived Nauka.
European Space Agency Took Part in ISS Partners Discussion on Nauka Module Incident
The European Space Agency (ESA) was part of discussions that were held by the ISS partners regarding the unscheduled activation of engines of Russia's Nauka multipurpose laboratory module after its docking to the International Space Station (ISS), Aschbacher said.
"This matter was discussed in the framework of the ISS partnership, which means NASA, Roscosmos, ESA, CSA [Canadian Space Agency] and JAXA [Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency]," Aschbacher said on the sidelines of the 36th Space Symposium. "And yes, ESA was part of this discussion. It was not one-to-one information, but ESA participated through the discussions of partners of the space station."
Nauka docked to the ISS on July 29. Three hours after the docking, its engines spontaneously activated, which led to a 45-degree turn of the station. The space station's engines had to be switched on in order to compensate for the change.
Roscosmos Executive Director for Piloted Spaceflights Sergey Krikalev said in early August that a special commission was formed to establish causes of unscheduled activation of engines of Russia's Nauka multipurpose laboratory module after its docking to the ISS.
Nauka docked with the ISS on July 29 after 14 years of waiting on the Earth and eight days of orbital flight. This is the first Russian module sent to the station in 11 years. The module was originally scheduled to go into orbit in 2007, but the launch was postponed multiple times for various reasons.
European Space Agency Chief Says Developing Reusable European Rockets Possible
The European Space Agency (ESA) considers building a reusable rocket with a fully recoverable first stage is possible, Aschbacher told Sputnik.
The European Commission has made clear its intention of backing projects to develop reusable rocket launchers similar to those pioneered by SpaceX.
"I have seen some statements by the European Commission in this respect." Aschbacher said. "Is it possible? Technically, yes. It is demonstrated in several places."
The Director General said that ESA and the Commission are discussing regularly several aspects of space cooperation, including the use of Europe’s launchers.
"First of all, the most important aspect is to ensure stable exploitation of the current launchers. That means Ariane 6 and Vega C which have their maiden flights next year," he noted. "As regards the future development, after Ariane 6 and Vega C, it is very early days and no decisions are made today of what type of launcher this would be, what technology. But, of course we have internal discussions on this topic."
"There are two things related to this. One is the engine called Prometheus which is developed right now, the second is the Themis launcher on which this will be mounted," he said. "There are different levels of tests planned. The first, smaller ones are hop tests, then flight tests to higher altitudes. And the first ones are planned for next year. I've seen the development of the engine. The Themis Project using the Prometheus engine is proceedin well."
European Space Agency Has No Confirmed Plans to Purchase Seats on Russian Soyuz
The European Space Agency (ESA) currently has no plans of acquiring any seats on Russia’s Soyuz as it currently has an active barter agreement with NASA, Aschbacher stressed.
"At the moment, we do not have plans to purchase seats on Soyuz because our arrangements on bringing astronauts to the Space Station are going through with the NASA," Aschbacher said on the sidelines of the 36th Space Symposium. "But just to clarify, we are not purchasing seats. Our seats for European astronauts are part of a barter agreement where we provide hardware to NASA. In exchange, we get flight opportunities for our ESA astronauts," he added.
Former ESA Director General Jan Woerner told Sputnik in February that ESA remains open to looking into the possibilities of resuming flights of European astronauts via Russia’s Soyuz spacecraft if a good barter deal is reached with Moscow.
European astronauts used to travel to the International Space Station (ISS) on Russia’s Soyuz spacecraft under US quotas, taking the place of US astronauts in accordance with an agreement between the ESA and NASA. The European astronauts switched to flying on the US spacecraft this year, as the United States has resumed the use of its own crew transportation.
ESA astronaut Matthias Maurer is expected to fly to the ISS as part of NASA’s SpaceX Crew-3 mission in the fall of 2021, the US space agency said in December.