China and Russia are set to sign a landmark deal to cooperate on space exploration in October, aiming to develop advanced space technology, research, space station infrastructure, and even manned moon missions, Chinese news agency CGTN reported.
Russian aerospace company Glavkosmos confirmed the reports on Thursday, telling TASS that "Work is nearing completion with the direct role of Glavkosmos to draw up a program of Russian-Chinese space cooperation for 2018-2022, which should be signed in the autumn of 2017.”
The agreement will last from 2018 to 2022, and will cover lunar and deep space exploration, advanced material development, satellite systems, Earth remote sensing, and space debris research, CGTN reported. Talks have been ongoing since June.
While it has one of the oldest and most advanced space programs in the world, Russia's efforts have in recent years been affected by lack of funding since the collapse of the Soviet Union. China hopes that Russian experience and technology can be complemented by Chinese resources.
“Russia could offer previous experience and aeronautic infrastructure and China could contribute new ideas and needed resource, which would also avoid overlapping investment on the same projects,” Wang Ya'nan, an editor at Aerospace Knowledge magazine said to Global Times.
Wang emphasized that China's approach to space exploration will likely be different from the West, in that it places a heavier emphasis on using it to develop technologies with practical application for economic and social development.
While China has been engaged in space exploration for a number of years, and has previously announced plans to develop a space station within the next decade and even a future lunar base, its ambitious plans have been hampered by a lack of technological cooperation with the West. Aerospace technology is “closely related to military fields,” which has limited technological exchange, Wang said.
The rapid pace of China's space program has caught the attention of international observers. “if the pace continues, I think the Chinese space program could overtake (Russian and United States) space programs over the next 20 years, Australian space analyst Morris Jones said to CGTN.
For Russia's part, the recent imposition of sanctions from the U.S. also limits the possibility of technological collaboration. They are increasingly looking to build other international partnerships to build their program. Beyond China, they are interested in creating deals with the BRICS countries, Iran, Vietnam, Indonesia, and the United Arab Emirates.