MAKS 2007 reaches for the stars

Business and space talks have been dominating the second day of Russia's largest international air show MAKS 2007 – Europe Day. A number of multi-million dollar deals have already been made at the show. Among the latest is Russia's contract wi

Besides, Russia, the U.S. and Europe have signed a memorandum of understanding to develop unified satellite systems to keep track of weather patterns and climate change.

The greatest part of Wednesday's presentations is demonstrating European involvement in manned space flights. Thus, the Russian and European space agencies are expected to present Project Mars-500. It involves six volunteers living in conditions that would simulate a journey to the red planet. The preparations for the trial, which will last for over 500 days, are due to start in Moscow later this year.

Experts say this experiment is crucial to ensure the human body and psychology can cope with the stresses of travelling such long distances in a company of very few people.
 
Meantime, according to the head of the Russian Federal Space Agency, evolution and modernisation are the key words in Russia's future space programme.
 

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“Russia is definitely a leader in the space industry sector. I’m talking about manned space activities such as the development of spacecraft that can travel beyond the earth’s orbit and explore the Moon, Mars and other planets. We have equipment in space that can take high resolution photos of the Earth’s surface – up to a million square metres per day. We also have world-class communication systems with a lifespan of fifteen years, and other systems that allow us to be competitive on the local market and abroad. We hope that MAKS 2007 will give the Russian aviation and space industries the boost they deserve,” commented Anatoly Perminov, Head of the Russian space agency Roscosmos.
 
At the last MAKS air show two years ago, it was the next generation in spacecraft which was making the news. The Russian Space Agency announced then their plans to develop the Kliper (Clipper) shuttle. The small re-useable spacecraft was introduced in 2005 as a successor to the Soyuz which has been orbiting the Earth for 40 years.
 
It is possible, however, that the project may not be carried out. An independent space expert, Yury Karash, explained this was due to the imperfect design that needs to be improved.

It seems the Kliper may have been abandoned in favour of a different strategy.
 
“The ideas behind the Kliper spaceship haven’t been passed by the scientific and technical council. When we started a thorough review, it turned out that the scientists considered that the first step to create a new spaceship was to base the design on existing and tested methods,” explained Anatoly Perminov.
 
Still, expectations are high to see what comes out of MAKS 2007. So far, there have been no major surprises for space developments. Instead, the focus seems to be on continued collaboration.

The Head of ESA, Jean Jacques Dordain said continuing to work closely together is important for the development of space travel.
 


Just about four years ago it looked like Russian aviation was in a state of a coma. So the Russian authorities decided to take measures aimed at reviving the industry. So agreements on strategic partnership with EADS and Airbus were signed. Still, we are realistic. We are completely aware that we are unable to challenge Boeing and Airbus – at least for the moment. That’s why we opt for a low-cost niche.

Ruslan Pukhov, Centre for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies
“We have long-standing ties with Russia but each time we make even more progress. I would say that our co-operation with Russia is growing wider and wider,” says Jean-Jacques Dordain, Head of the European Space Agency (ESA).
 
ESA's management and its Russian counterpart, Roscosmos, have stressed their commitment to working together to explore space, research new technologies and maintain a free flow of communication. But the most significant step involves joining resources to build a spaceship.
 
“We are holding very serious talks with the European Space Agency. Jean-Jacques Dordain has come with all his deputies and a number of experts. And we keep in mind several possible ways of co-operation. We are speaking about strategies for five or even more years ahead,” says Head of the Federal Space Agency, Anatoly Perminov.
 
Progress in space is one of the things most talked about at this year’s air show. New projects include a number of missions, all of them important for Russia as one of the leaders in space exploration.
 
As for civil aviation, several major deals were closed within two days. On Wednesday, Siberia-based Irkut company concluded a contract to produce landing gear for A 320 jets. The planes are one of the most popular in the world and the deal is likely to bring considerable revenue to the company.

Meanwhile, Vladimir Sautov from the Irkut company told Russia Today that demand for the group's products is not limited to the landing gear.
 
“It was a good opportunity to present here at the Moscow air show several new products. Well, first of all is our lead item – a next generation combat flight simulator, the Yak-130. Yesterday and today, we organised flight simulations and we held a lot of negotiations here with our foreign customers from different countries. Another one is the B-200 amphibian jet, one of the best for fire-fighting. Probably you know that nowadays this aircraft is used by the Portuguese government, as well as the Greek Republic, for fire-fighting there,” he explains.
 

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Also, in addition to the sale of six fighter jets to Indonesia on Tuesday, Russian military aircraft manufacturer Sukhoi has announced plans to market their Su-100 SuperJets to the West. 
 
Some experts say that despite co-operation with Western companies, the Russian aviation industry is not likely to see major progress in the near future.
 
“Now there are lots of opportunities for the Russian industry to work in partnership with Airbus and Boeing and the unified industry has already a good relationship with Airbus. However, this will be a supplier relationship. Russia is not going to build any big aircraft. There is no sign of that coming at all. Sadly, those days for the Russian civil aircraft industry seem to be over,” believes Robert Hewson, aviation expert.

To watch Robert Hewson talking live from the MAKS 2007 air show about how it differs from the previous ones, please follow the link.
 
Others, though, view the situation from a more optimistic perspective.
 
“Just about four years ago it looked like Russian aviation was in a state of a coma. So the Russian authorities decided to take measures aimed at reviving the industry. So agreements on strategic partnership with EADS and Airbus were signed. Still, we are realistic. We are completely aware that we are unable to challenge Boeing and Airbus – at least for the moment. That’s why we opt for a low-cost niche,” says Ruslan Pukhov from the Centre for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies.