Status Report

House Science Committee Hearing Charter: U.S.-Russian Cooperation in Space

By SpaceRef Editor
June 10, 2003
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Wednesday, June 11, 2003 at 2:00 p.m.

2318 Rayburn House Office Building

Purpose of Hearing

On Wednesday, June 11, 2003, at 2:00 p.m. in room 2318 of the Rayburn House Office Building, the Space and Aeronautics Subcommittee will hold a hearing on U.S.-Russian Cooperation in Space. This hearing will explore the benefits and risks of U.S.-Russian cooperation on space programs. Specifically, the hearing will review Russia’s participation in the International Space Station (ISS) program and the Russian Space Agency’s (RSA) ability to provide near-term and long-term support for the ISS with Soyuz and Progress space vehicles. Members will examine how NASA has interpreted Section 6 of the Iran Nonproliferation Act (INA) of 2000, how the INA has affected U.S.-Russian space collaboration, and how INA policies have influenced Russian nonproliferation. In addition, the hearing will also review other areas of technical collaboration in space between the U.S. and Russia and how best to organize these collaborations between government and industry.

Major Issues for Congress

Joint Statement on U.S.-Russia Cooperation in Space. On June 1st, President Bush and Russian President Putin issued a Joint Statement on Cooperation in Space that committed the U.S. to safely returning the Space Shuttle to flight and Russia to meeting the Space Station crew transport and logistics resupply requirements until the Shuttle returns to flight. The statement also reaffirmed a U.S.-Russia commitment to take “energetic steps” to enhance cooperation in space technologies and techniques. How will Russia fund its commitments for the Space Station?

Reliance on the Russians to Support the Space Station. U.S. human spaceflight is completely reliant on the Russian Soyuz and Progress space vehicles for all crew transport and rescue as well as cargo delivery to the Space Station while the Space Shuttle fleet is grounded. Even when the Space Shuttle fleet returns to flight, U.S. human spaceflight will still rely on the Russian Soyuz vehicle for Space Station crew rescue. Several NASA reports call into question the inability of RSA to support the Space Station over the next several years without additional funding.

The Iran Nonproliferation Act (INA). Section 6 of the INA prevents the U.S. Government from providing payments to the Russian Government, including the RSA, in connection with the ISS unless certain conditions are met. U.S. industry has raised questions about whether the INA allows U.S. contractors to enter into relationships with Russian contractors on Space Station work.

Background on Russia’s Participation in the International Space Station. The history of the Cold War and human spaceflight are closely intertwined with U.S.-Soviet/Russian foreign relations. In 1993, President Clinton invited Russia into the international partnership (Europe, Canada, and Japan were already partners) to build the Space Station. The primary reasons behind this invitation were to promote Russian adherence to the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) and promote nonproliferation by helping Russia’s aerospace industry shift from military to civilian work. Between 1994 and 1998, NASA paid the Russian Space Agency approximately $800 million to build the Zarya space station module, support the Shuttle-Mir program, and other spaceflight activities while the RSA agreed to build and launch the Zvezda Service Module as well as Soyuz and Progress crew and cargo vehicles to support the Space Station.

Throughout the past 10 years, Russia had financial problems and schedule delays in meeting its commitments to the Space Station program. Also, during the 1990s, several reports raised concerns that the RSA and Russian aerospace industry were proliferating weapons technologies to rogue states. In response to these concerns, the House and Senate unanimously (419-0 in the House and 98-0 in the Senate) passed the Iran Nonproliferation Act (INA) that became law on March 14, 2000.

The Iran Nonproliferation Act (INA) restricts the U.S. Government from making payments to the RSA or any organization under its jurisdiction in connection with the International Space Station unless the President determines that the Russian Government is not proliferating any weapons of mass destruction (WMD) or ballistic missile technology to Iran. Exceptions to this restriction are allowed in cases of crew safety, and support for the Russian Zvezda Service Module (See attachment 3 for more detailed background on U.S.-Russia Space Cooperation and attachment 5 for the relevant portions of the INA). Key issues to consider:

  • Has Section 6 of the INA helped stem proliferation between Russia and Iran?
  • How has Section 6 of the INA impacted the Space Station program?

Reliance on Russian Support to the Space Station. The Space Shuttle Columbia tragedy and subsequent grounding of the Shuttle fleet has made the U.S. human spaceflight program completely reliant on the Russian Soyuz and Progress space vehicles for all crew transport and rescue as well as cargo delivery to the International Space Station while the Space Shuttle fleet is grounded. RSA informed the ISS international partners at the February 26th Multilateral Configuration Board meeting that while RSA agreed to the accelerated production schedule for Progress cargo vehicles (see Attachment 2) additional funds from the international partners were needed to meet that schedule. Since then, the Space Station international partners have agreed to a Progress and Soyuz flight schedule while the Space Shuttle fleet is grounded, but have not yet found the necessary funds for those Russian flights. NASA described its concern last April:

“The concern was based on the fact that Russian performance appeared to depend on the receipt of ‘off-budget’ funds from the sale of flight opportunities [space tourist flights] on the Soyuz missions. The European Space Agency (ESA) had arranged to purchase two of the four available flight opportunities, but prospects for the other two were unclear. The grounding of the Space Shuttle fleet and the subsequent Multilateral Coordination Board-agreed upon interim operations plan have put additional financial strain on Rosaviakosmos [Russian Space Agency]. To assist during this difficult period, ESA has agreed to defer the flights of its astronauts, while continuing payments to Rosaviakosmos for the flights on the original schedule.”

Unless the Administration requests a waiver to the Iran Nonproliferation Act, additional funds for Russia’s support to the Space Station will need to come from the international partners other than the U.S.

Long-Term Viability of Russian Support for the Space Station. Even before the Columbia tragedy made issues about reliance on Russian Progress and Soyuz flights more acute, NASA reported “uncertainties associated with the outlook for Russia’s future funding” for the Space Station in its bimonthly performance reports to the Committee. The agreement between the international partners called upon Russia to provide Soyuz capsules to serve as crew rescue vehicles through 2006. These NASA reports call into question the ability of the Russian Space Agency to support the Space Station over the next several years without additional funding from the Russian Government, the Space Station international partners, or the sale of more space tourist flights.

  • How is NASA mitigating the risks to the Space Station and its crew if the Russian Space Agency is not able to support long-term crew transport/rescue as well as cargo delivery?
  • Due to NASA’s problems in developing a Space Station crew rescue vehicle and RSA’s financial problems, is continued reliance on the Russian Soyuz a prudent and viable plan?

Safety of the Soyuz Vehicles

The flight of the Russian Soyuz vehicle that returned the Expedition 6 crew last month raised new questions about the safety of our reliance on Russian vehicles. This capsule did not re-enter the Earths atmosphere as planned but re-entered the Earth’s atmosphere in an anomalous ballistic entry, and the capsule landed over 275 miles from its intended landing target in Kazakhstan. The astronauts experienced more than 8 G forces versus the normal 4 Gs during this re-entry. Further, search and rescue crews took more than 2 hours to locate the crew. Rescue teams could not pinpoint the crew until they unfurled a 15-foot auxiliary antenna.
Key issues include:

  • What actions have the ISS international partners taken to ensure that the necessary resources are available for Russian Progress cargo flights to the Space Station?
  • Are the funding shortfalls for Russian Soyuz and Progress missions causing any undue safety risks to the Space Station or its crew while the Shuttle fleet is grounded?

The Iran Nonproliferation Act. The INA prohibits the U.S. government from making payments to Russia in connection with the ISS and prohibits payments to any other entity if the U.S. Government anticipates that such payments will be passed on to an entity proliferating to Iran. Recently, industry bidders for the Space Station Cargo Mission Request for Proposals (RFP) sought guidance from NASA on the applicability of INA restrictions to U.S.-Russian company subcontracts. NASA asked for information from potential bidders on their proposed Russian subcontractor relationships and impact on the bidder’s team if the Russian company could not participate in the work. Key issues include:

  • What impacts have potential bidders to the ISS Cargo Mission RFP identified to NASA as a result of this guidance?
  • To what degree does Section 6 of the INA restrict U.S.-Russian companies relationships on launch vehicles or cargo carriers to the Space Station?

Collaboration with Russia on Space Programs. The Iran Nonproliferation Act only covers U.S.-Russian collaboration on the International Space Station, but the U.S. and Russia collaborate in several other space programs. NASA provided a summary of its cooperation with Russia in Attachment 4.
The joint U.S.-Russia statement says that the two countries “are prepared to take energetic steps to enhance our cooperation in the application of space technology and techniques.” Other than the Space Station, space launch is the main area of collaboration between the U.S. and Russia. These joint ventures are formed between U.S. and Russian companies rather than through government-to-government collaboration.

Rocket Engines. Lockheed Martin’s Atlas V uses the RD-180 first stage engine built by Energomash, a Russian company, and Sea Launch is a partnership between Boeing, Energia, and Yuzhnoye/Yuzhmash using the Ukrainian Zenit rocket and Russian upper stage engines. Several U.S. commercial satellites are launched from Russia or Kazakhstan.

Space Nuclear Power. NASA, through the Department of Energy, purchases plutonium fuel from Russia for its in-space nuclear power. During the early 1990s, the U.S. purchased the Russian Topaz space nuclear reactor in order to analyze its design for future systems. However, further collaboration between the U.S. and Russia in NASA’s new nuclear systems development appears doubtful.
Russian Collaboration with other Nations. The Russian Space Agency also has a number of cooperative ventures with other countries in space–France, Germany, Canada, China, India, Bulgaria, Hungary, Pakistan, Portugal, Israel, and the European Space Agency. Of particular interest, RSA signed agreements to support China’s human spaceflight program. Russia also has ties with India and Pakistan’s rocket program.

  • What are some areas of technical collaboration in space between the U.S. and Russia that would provide meaningful benefit to the U.S. space program while also discouraging Russian proliferation of space and missile capabilities to other countries?
  • How best should these cooperative space endeavors be organized, either between U.S.-Russian companies or between the governments?


  • Amb. Steve Pifer, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs, State Department
  • Mr. John Schumacher, NASA Assistant Administrator for External Relations
  • Mr. Henry Sokolski, Executive Director of the Nonproliferation Policy Education Center
  • Mr. Robert M. Davis, President and CEO of the California Space Authority

4 Attachments:

1. Joint Statement by President Bush and Russian President Putin on U.S.-Russian Cooperation in Space

2. Chart: MCB-Approved Soyuz and Progress Launch Schedule Re-Plan 2003-2004

3. Congressional Research Service Background Paper

4. NASA Summary on U.S.-Russia Space Cooperation

5. Sections 6 and 7 of the Iran Nonproliferation Act of 2000

Joint Statement by President Bush and Russian President Putin on U.S.-Russian Cooperation in Space. On June 1, 2003 during their meeting in St. Petersburg, Russia, the U.S. and Russian presidents issued the following joint statement:

The loss of the Space Shuttle Columbia has underscored the historic role of the United States and Russia as partners in space exploration, who have persevered despite tragedy and adversity. During this challenging time, our partnership has deepened and the International Space Station (ISS) program remains strong. The extraordinary efforts of our countries continue.

The United States is committed to safely returning the Space Shuttle to flight, and the Russian Federation is committed to meeting the ISS crew transport and logistics resupply requirements necessary to maintain our joint American astronaut and Russian cosmonaut teams on board the ISS until the Space Shuttle returns to flight.

We confirm our mutual aspiration to ensure the continued assembly and viability of the International Space Station as a world-class research facility, relying on our unprecedented experience of bilateral and multilateral interaction in space. We reaffirm our commitment to the mission of human space flight and are prepared to take energetic steps to enhance our cooperation in the application of space technology and techniques.

SpaceRef staff editor.