Kremlin Orders State-Owned Roscosmos to Establish Cooperation with Venezuela’s Space Agency

On March 16, 2020, the Krem­lin report­ed­ly issued an order to Russia’s space agency, Roscos­mos, to estab­lish coop­er­a­tion with Venezuela’s Boli­var­i­an Agency for Space Activ­i­ty (ABAE) in the fields of astro­nom­i­cal research, remote sens­ing, geo­desy, and satel­lite com­mu­ni­ca­tion.  The order was issued on the rec­om­men­da­tion of Glav­cos­mos, the Roscos­mos sub­sidiary tasked with pro­mot­ing inter­na­tion­al projects.

The two coun­tries will report­ed­ly next nego­ti­ate a for­mal bilat­er­al agree­ment to “pool col­lec­tive sci­en­tif­ic man­pow­er” from their respec­tive space pro­grams.  The agree­ment appears to be the result of bilat­er­al talks that have been ongo­ing since 2016.  Pre­vi­ous­ly, the Pres­i­dent of ABAE not­ed that Rus­sia could help com­mer­cial­ize the country’s space resources that, in turn, could diver­si­fy the econ­o­my and help Venezuela achieve “tech­no­log­i­cal inde­pen­dence,” despite Venezuela’s space indus­try being reliant on for­eign space pro­grams.

Most recent­ly, Cara­cas relied on Chi­nese exper­tise and infra­struc­ture to launch one com­mu­ni­ca­tion and two sur­veil­lance satel­lites that have been char­ac­ter­ized as crit­i­cal tools in aid­ing the regime’s secu­ri­ty forces and key eco­nom­ic sec­tors such as agri­cul­ture and ener­gy.  Sub­se­quent­ly, in 2018, fol­low­ing a vis­it by Maduro to Moscow, it was announced that Venezuela would begin using Russia’s glob­al nav­i­ga­tion satel­lite sys­tem, GLONASS, allud­ing to the notion it would help Venezuela boost the telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions sec­tor  as well as oth­er exist­ing areas of coop­er­a­tion, such as ener­gy, infor­ma­tion, phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals, and the mil­i­tary-indus­tri­al com­plex.

Beyond Venezuela, the agree­ment with ABAE adds fur­ther momen­tum to Roscos­mos’ recent efforts to deep­en space coop­er­a­tion with oth­er Latin Amer­i­can coun­ter­parts.  To date, much of Roscos­mos’ activ­i­ties in Latin Amer­i­ca have been direct­ed toward sup­port­ing Russia’s GLONASS satel­lite sys­tem.  In Octo­ber 2019, Roscos­mos signed a pro­to­col on space coop­er­a­tion with Argentina’s Nation­al Space Activ­i­ties Com­mis­sion (CONAE) cov­er­ing work in the fields of “nav­i­ga­tion, remote sens­ing of the Earth, sci­en­tif­ic research, the devel­op­ment of space tech­nol­o­gy, and manned space explo­ration.”  Rus­sia has also report­ed­ly been con­sid­er­ing estab­lish­ing a GLONASS sta­tion in Argenti­na for sev­er­al years, pos­si­ble in Cor­do­ba, near Argentina’s Teofi­lo Tabanera Space Cen­ter.  At present, Rus­sia oper­ates (or is in the process of estab­lish­ing) five ground sta­tions in the region – four in Brazil and one in Nicaragua — to sup­port the sys­tem.