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High-level exchange at Europe-Russia space workshop

Status Report From: European Commission
Posted: Friday, February 14, 2003

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Over 300 representatives from more than a dozen countries met for a workshop entitled ‘Europe-Russia co-operation in the space sector’ from 22-24 January 2003. The event, held at the Russian Aviation and Space Agency (Rosaviakosmos) headquarters in Moscow, was a joint initiative of the European Commission (EC), the European Space Agency (ESA) and Rosaviakosmos and featured high-level presentations of historic successes, ongoing partnerships and future prospects for collaboration in space.

In his opening address, Rosaviakosmos Director General Yuri Koptev said, “I am happy to welcome all of you to this truly important event. We are looking forward to a frank and constructive exchange between Russia and the United Europe. But of course this will not be the first time we have come together. The history of co-operation between Russia and Europe began in 1971 and includes a long list of successful collaborations. More recently, during a period of political and economic transition, Russia has maintained its interest in space while co-operation with Europe has become a priority.”

A common vision

Recent decisions by the Russian government have established a clear set of priorities for the Russian space programme. According to Koptev, they include, satellite navigation, global monitoring, telecommunications, manned space flight, and launcher technologies, a list which is very much in line with the priorities set out for Europe under the new 6th Framework Programme (FP6). Under the Aeronautics and Space thematic priority, FP6 highlights satellite navigation (GALILEO), global monitoring (GMES) and satellite telecommunications as key research priorities (see Work Programme). "Ours is a great responsibility and a great challenge," said Koptev. "We are balanced on the leading edge of technological achievement and we carry out work which is at the same time highly dangerous to those who undertake it and of great importance to all of mankind."

Speaking for the European Commission, Director for Aeronautics and Space Research Jack Metthey said, "The political context has never been more favourable to broadened co-operation between Europe and the Russian Federation. On the one hand we have the ongoing enlargement process, which will bring new countries into Europe, including many with strong former ties to Russia, and on the other we have a new Framework Programme that recognises for the first time the strategic importance of space research. It is crucial to note here that Russia can now participate as a full and equal partner under FP6. This is truly a breakthrough. A new door has been opened."

 

In his opening remarks, ESA Director General Antonio Rodotà said, "We have seen an impressive list of historic co-operative efforts between Europe and Russia in space. This work has already resulted in enormous benefits to both sides and we are very pleased to see the European Commission now getting involved. The question is how best to use the new resources it is making available, and that means getting together with our partners and setting our goals and priorities."

Information and insight

Day one of the workshop featured a number of highly informative presentations by both European and Russian delegates. Representing the Russian Academy of Sciences, Vladimir Fortov confirmed the experience and commitment of Russian academia to international co-operation in space while Nikolai Anfimov of Rosaviakosmos outlined areas of possible overlap between European and Russian interests in space research. The EC's Luc Tytgat provided an in-depth look at the FP6 Space priority followed by ESA representatives who presented the current status of the priority European space programmes – GALILEO, GMES and satellite telecommunications.

The first Italian astronaut, Franco Malerba, provided a personal vision of the meaning of international co-operation in space, as a European who flew on the American space shuttle Atlantis in 1992. "Space is truly man's final frontier. Like all of us, I was inspired as a child by the exploits of the great Russians, Gagarin, Leonov, and many ohers. Given Russia's long experience in space, it makes sense for Europe to link hands with her now. Of course, industrial and scientific co-operation across international borders is a complex issue, but ESA has already demonstrated its ability to cross old boundaries."

European industry was represented by Joël Barré of Snecma, a French group co-operating actively with Russia since 1991. Hélène Burlakoff presented an interesting overview of the work of INTAS, the International Association for the Promotion of Co-operation with Scientists from New Independent States of the former Soviet Union. Since 1992, INTAS has provided around €165 million to 2555 high-level projects. Finally, Didier Gambier discussed ISTC, the International Science & Technology Center, which promotes the nonproliferation of weapons technology of mass destruction. "Our aim is to help scientists formerly engaged in defense research to redirect their efforts towards civil applications," he explained.

Technical sessions

The remainder of the conference was largely devoted to the thematic sessions, focussing on specific areas of research and featuring presentations and discussions of leading edge technologies. At the closing sessions, the individual session moderators presented their results. Themes included the three main space priorities under FP6:

Three additional areas were also covered by individual sessions:

For more information on the results of the sessions, click here.

Conclusions

Final words

"As newcomers to space research, we at the Commission have been extremely happy to see new partnerships concretised at this workshop," said Luc Tytgat. "We have identified potential future projects and possibly a wider set of tools." For Alexandre Medvetchicov, Deputy Director General of Rosaviakosmos, the goals of the workshop had been attained. "I thanks all of you for coming," he said, "but remember, this is not the end of our work but just the beginning.

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