During an intense week of the 70th annual International Astronautical Congress in Washington D.C. in which all space players gathered to discuss the development and progress of space in its various features, SpaceWatch.Global’s Ksenia Synkova had the chance to interview Dmitry Loskutov, Director General of Glavkosmos about its key activities, international collaborations, and future plans.
Glavkosmos has become the single commercial operator for international business in Russia. What does that mean for Glavkosmos?
For Glavkosmos, it means not only new challenges and new opportunities, but also new responsibilities. For me, as for Director General of Glavkosmos, it means more responsibilities in terms of facilitation for signing contracts between the Russian space industry and its foreign partners. It means taking stock of what is happening now in terms of economic activity for Roscosmos enterprises. It also means that we are taking a more sustainable approach to the strategic vision for our economic cooperation with our current and future partners.
What can you tell us about cooperation with the likes of China, Russia and United Arab Emirates? What are the next steps?
Well, United Arab Emirates offered us a really good new experience. On October 3, the first UAE astronaut, Hazzaa Al Mansoori, safely returned from the ISS after the completion of his mission. This was a historical event, not only for the region, but also for the whole world. We are really happy and proud that we were part of this success.
Glavkosmos was responsible for two tracks of the preflight preparation. First, we together with the relevant Russian entities were in charge of selection and medical examination of the astronauts, and second, we had a very special contract for preparing the space food kits, commonly known as “guest food kits” for the UAE astronauts. Hazzaa Al Mansoori took those kits to the flight and treated his colleagues at the space station with very tasty, pre-prepared food according to the finest traditional Halal recipes! It has been a very interesting endeavour and we hope that our cooperation with United Arab Emirates is just the beginning.
Russian and Indian space industries have been cooperating since the 1970s. Recently, we have started to work with Indian partners on the medical examination, which will be followed by training of Indian astronauts. Currently we are also working with India to support the manufacture and design of the manned spacecraft for the Project Gaganyaan, which is an Indian challenging manned space mission. In fact, the team of specialists from Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) has recently visited Glavkosmos to hold talks with my team and with Rocket and Space Corporation Energia, which is the prime developer and contractor of the Russian manned spaceflight program. I should stress out that this is going to be an Indian spacecraft and we are just providing assistance to them and enabling them to cooperate with Russian space enterprises.
We are also talking about some other projects with India. There are several areas of cooperation with this country and new opportunities are on the table. We hope to tackle them and we will do it effectively.
China is also our long-term partner. We have a program of cooperation with China, which is reviewed every five years. It covers various aspects, such as the exploration of the Moon, production of materials and research in different areas. China is our very special partner and we are looking forward to expanding the fields of interest with the Chinese colleagues.
What is your perspective on the satellite launch market and how are you going to meet the demands of your customers?
We have a German partner Exolaunch that has been effective in finding small satellite secondary payloads for piggyback launches for our Soyuz missions and we hope this cooperation will continue in the future.
We are closely cooperating with International Launch Services (ILS) on elaborating better products and broader services; we want to be able to offer more flexible strategic launch agreements.
There will be a wider coordination between Roscosmos, ILS (that markets Proton) and GK Launch Services (our daughter company that markets Soyuz). It means that we will be able to offer more to our customers. We can do some effective cross-marketing for these launch vehicles. Some customers switch from one launch vehicle to the other and we are here to provide very quick and cost-effective solutions for our clients. Obviously, cost-effectiveness is critical for our customers and we are working hard on making our launch services even more attractive in these terms.
Other players currently are appearing on the market and they take a different approach to launch services. Therefore, we have to be more agile, efficient and responsible in terms of providing our customers with services in a fast, secure and effective way.
There is an increasing amount of privately-funded companies opening up new avenues. How do you plan to stay relevant in the face of this increasing competition?
I think it is very exciting, NewSpace is an exciting scenario. I would say we have to work with these private companies. We do not have any privately funded companies in our portfolio now, but we are interested to look for private companies both in Russia and abroad to help provide b2b support. We have some interesting companies at Skolkovo Innovation Centre in Moscow and we will be working together in November at Space Tech Expo Europe – 2019 in Bremen. We are here to help build more effective cooperation between private foreign companies and our Russian space industry.
At the beginning of 2020, we will take stock to assess how effective we were in 2019. I would not like to make predictions, but I hope we will show some good and solid financial results.
Where do you see the future of space launches?
That’s a tricky question. There are different views about where the space launch industry is heading to, but whatever the future of space launches will be, the Russian launch vehicles will still be there.
Spacewatch.Global thanks Dmitry Loskutov of Glavkosmos for the interview.