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Meeting with young scientists and space industry specialists

October 26, 2023, Korolyov, the Moscow Region

Vladimir Putin met with young scientists and space industry specialists at the Energia rocket and space corporation in the city of Korolyov, Moscow Region.

President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Good evening,

One part of the tour is over, and in this part, I hope to hear some proposals and ideas on the development of the industry.

I see some very young people here, and yet all of you are already working in this very interesting and promising field, without which not only development, but human life will soon become completely impossible. The existence of some countries, there status on the global stage and the quality of their development are impossible without outer space.

Everything is getting more and more interesting, more massive, and more fascinating.

I have just seen a mathematical model of what is going to happen in outer space in 2030 and it is just staggering. Energia corporation managers and other specialists told me today that the orbit of the ISS has to be adjusted twice a year, whereas in 2030 some spacecraft will have to be adjusted twice a day because there is such a huge number of them appearing there, and all for a reason (except space rubbish) – they all perform a certain mission. I say “certain” figuratively as they perform crucial tasks – communications and remote sensing of the Earth, and so on.

Your industry is knowledge-intensive, very specialised and complex. Therefore, I expect our dialogue will not become all questions and answers because I am unlikely to answer special questions. But I hope our conversation will go along the lines of listening to your proposals and ideas on how to run the industry in the best possible way, what is considered promising and most important, how the state can help, and what else needs to be done. It is even more important before the conference we are going to have right after the meeting with you.

Please, go ahead.

Andrei Volyntsev: Good afternoon, Mr President.

My name is Andrei Volyntsev, and I am Chairman of the Council of Young Scientists and Specialists at the Roscosmos State Corporation. I head a department at Kuznetsov Research Institute of Applied Mechanics (a branch of the centre for operation of ground-based space infrastructure). I will help moderate the meeting today.

Thank you for your positive attitude. On behalf of our young people, I would like to thank you for taking the time to meet with us. We know how busy you are, and this makes having you here with us today even more valuable.

I suggest moving along and right now, I give the floor to the host of this venue. Anton Kulikov, RSC Energia.

Anton Kulikov: Good afternoon.

Anton Kulikov, engineer, RSC Energia.

I will start with a complicated issue: the bureaucratic burden on the industry.

International space exploration is growing rapidly today. The best example is the development of automatic devices. Until recently, we made one-off products; now there is a need for constellations of hundreds of satellites. In this context, the operation of large satellite groups becomes more important, while the functioning of individual devices is fading into the background.

Unfortunately, the current regulations lack the flexibility to focus on critical elements and loosen control where appropriate. This excessive control in fact increases the time and cost of projects, and it is difficult for companies from related industries to enter the technology industry.

I would like to note that this problem affects manned spaceflight projects as well as unmanned spacecraft. There are many more critical elements here, but nevertheless, there are problems and there is room for improvement.

I believe that the time has come for the leading developers of rocket and space technology to sit down together and discuss and update the current regulatory framework. It should be the pivot around which the work is built, and not the proverbial spoke in the wheel.

Thank you.

Vladimir Putin: So what is your question? Or was that a proposal?

Anton Kulikov: It was a proposal.

Vladimir Putin: I see.

You certainly must have noticed that in recent years, we have been paying a lot of attention to de-bureaucratisation in various industries. From what you have said, the space industry also needs some of the regulatory debris cleared, those created over decades.

It is clear that the industry was created in certain conditions, at a certain development level of both science and technology. Much has changed since then. And you are probably right – not probably, but definitely. I do not know exactly what you are talking about, as you did not mention specific things, so it is difficult for me to take in the situation. But I know for sure that in general the regulatory framework should be adapted to today’s reality.

On the one hand, this should be done in such a way as to ensure the safety and reliability of the space system as a whole and of individual devices. I do not know how precise you were in your wording: after all, the reliability of the entire system depends on the reliability of individual devices.

I think it is about different things: approaches, the need to get rid of excessive regulation and excessive requirements. Mr Borisov is probably better aware of this excessiveness than me, but we definitely need to follow this path. We will follow it, especially since even with the modern excessive requirements that you mentioned, failures such as with Luna-25 still occur. Therefore, the excessive regulation and over-bureaucracy probably do not safeguard us from such incidents, although, of course, this is a separate issue, and we need to study it more closely. Mr Borisov has already reported on this: in fact, it is already clear what happened there, but it all happened despite the regulation.

We will certainly move along this path, especially since interaction between the state and private businesses is now in great demand. Space services are being commercialised, and it will be completely impossible to develop without this. It is necessary to create a market for these services; this market should be organised in such a way that it will be profitable to work in space, to invest money in it, and so on.

Of course, we cannot do without modern legal regulation. We will definitely follow this path. It will be necessary to specify, including with your help, exactly what needs to be done to make the wheel spin faster.

Anton Kulikov: This is a very difficult question. I think if we discuss it in detail now, our meeting will simply go on for too long.

Vladimir Putin: When your colleagues talked about how the work is organised, how the work is going, including private companies talking about their achievements, they talked about what they need. What they need cannot be provided without a certain adjustment of the regulatory framework. We will definitely move in this direction.

Anton Kulikov: Thank you.

Andrei Volyntsev: I propose we do not slow down and pass the floor to my Siberian colleague. Ivan Zimin, Reshetnev Information Satellite Systems.

Ivan Zimin: Good afternoon. My name is Ivan Zimin, and I am chief designer of small spacecraft at Reshetnev.

As you know, we are currently developing multi-satellite orbital constellations as part of the Sfera project, gaining experience in building large systems and ensuring transition to mass production of space equipment. This will allow us to significantly expand the market for the services that we can offer to organisations and individuals in our country. And, as you were absolutely correct in saying, and I agree with you on this, it is necessary to form a regulatory framework for the commercialisation of services.

However, Reshetnev is also the main developer of another type of systems – geostationary space systems, which currently form the basis of satellite communications in Russia. But at present these systems do not receive any state support. I believe that this is a critical infrastructure element of communications.

Vladimir Putin: They receive no support?

Ivan Zimin: No state funding. At the moment they are commercial systems. I believe that this is very important, it is a pillar, the backbone of satellite communications in Russia.

My question is a question and a suggestion at the same time: are there any plans at the state level to support the development of geostationary space systems in order to preserve the basis of communications infrastructure in Russia?

Thank you.

Vladimir Putin: We were just looking at this, and my colleagues were saying, and I absolutely agree, the whole world is moving in this direction. Both unmanned aerial vehicles and those that should fly and are already flying higher, in the near space, as well as low-orbit vehicles and geostationary vehicles, they should all work within the same system. It should all be combined with each other. It is quite obvious, you do not even need to be such a big expert. Life requires the same things everywhere, and in all spheres: in security, communications, and telecommunications.

And the better the connection between the different levels, the bigger the market will be for the relevant services. And the bigger the market, the more efficient and faster everything will develop, because money will drive this progress forward.

Of course, we will also support geostationary systems and everything that works there.

As for the Sfera project, don't we have government support? Of course, we do. But how is the system developing? Moreover, what was its original name?

Director General of the Roscosmos State Space Corporation Yury Borisov: Efir.

Vladimir Putin: It was originally called Efir. I misspoke in one of my public speeches and said Sfera. I came to the Kremlin and called the former boss, head of Roscosmos [Dmitry Rogozin] and said: listen, Dmitry, I apologise, I misspoke, I said “Project Sfera.” He said: there is a project called Sfera. I said: how is that possible? I misspoke. He said, no, we have already rewritten it. Before I got there, it was already called Sfera. I said: Well, all right, we cannot rewrite it back, let it be Sfera.

Why do I remember that? Because initially it relied entirely on state support. And we will continue to do it, of course. We have to.

But, unfortunately, we have not yet been able to commercialise all this activity to the necessary extent. We will definitely follow this path. And we will invest state resources, because there are some services that are required by the state. And if the state uses certain services, it has to pay.

Ivan Zimin: Thank you.

Andrei Volyntsev: Mr President, I would like to make my own report now.

As an employee of Russian space launch centres, I run the risk of being misunderstood by my colleagues. They might even beat me up a little if I do not raise the question of restricted areas. Those Siberians are heavy hitters.

Vladimir Putin: Siberians are no-nonsense people.

Andrei Volyntsev: That is if I do not ask you about cities and towns that are restricted areas.

The social infrastructure is almost non-existent in Tsiolkovsky. Blagoveshchensk is a four-hour’s drive away, on a bad road, and as a result, most young people go away at least on weekends, and sometimes move away altogether. Last year, we held a youth event there on a Saturday, but we barely scraped up 50 people from the entire town.

The situation is similar in Zheleznogorsk. There, too, the poor transport accessibility really complicates things. Hosting a conference there means transferring all the participants in cars, vans, whatever, two hours there and two back. This adds an unnecessary expense, and an unnecessary time. This definitely cannot appeal to young people.

I believe these communities I mentioned will be playing a key role in the most ambitious Roscosmos projects in the near future. Accordingly, if we want these projects to be implemented, on behalf of our young people, I have to take a deep breath and demand that the issue be resolved at least in terms of creating new social and leisure centres and improving transport connectivity, and if possible, that favourable conditions be created there for business and commerce. These areas need to be developed for the residents to finally be proud of the places where they live. This will enable them to go further in their work, if they are not as distracted by everyday issues.

This concludes my report.

Vladimir Putin: You do not need to demand anything. It was actually my idea to build the Vostochny space launch centre, and that in turn gave rise to the city. It is no exaggeration to say this. It was a time when the country had no money at all; it was in the early 2000s. And when I said that Russia should have its own space centre, a real civilian launch pad, everyone thought it was a joke. But then we began working on it.

At first, Roscosmos proposed a site on the Pacific coast, somewhere near Vladivostok, and the design stage began, but then our colleagues came back and said no. They had seen launches at Cape Canaveral – the weather conditions on the ocean coast were not so good, and we had to move inland. So we moved further inland. To be clear, I personally chose the location. We just came there and stood looking at this field, where the launch centre is now. So I do not need to be persuaded because I fully agree with you.

Moreover, when I was there recently with our Korean guest, from North Korea, we did not just talk, but we also addressed the development of the space centre and the city. I asked my colleagues to pay special attention to this. We will definitely do this.

Moreover, there are two large facilities in the area, Gazprom and Sibur. They are also planning social programmes there. And I asked them to include Tsiolkovsky in their programme, so that the people from all of the local communities could use a single system of socially important facilities that people need, especially young people. So we will definitely do it, 100 percent.

And I would like this to happen as soon as possible. Since you have mentioned this now, I will take it under close review, as they say, and we will try to push forward it as far as possible. I would really like people to feel comfortable there, so that they would stop running away – and go for a run in the morning, for health, instead. We will definitely try to do this, we certainly will.

Andrei Volyntsev: Thank you.

We also have representatives of private cosmonautics present here. I suggest we give them the floor.

Vsevolod Shevtsov and Makar Stepanchenko.

Vsevolod Shevtsov: Good afternoon. I am Vsevolod Shevtsov from the Sitronics Group.

To summarise, private space companies are ready to start fulfilling the objectives of the state and the Roscosmos state corporation given today’s conditions, challenges and needs.

For instance, a low-orbit satellite for Earth remote sensing and spacecraft for the automated vessel identification system developed by Sitronics have been launched and are operating in the orbit. Moreover, a service for vessel identification has been developed for the Federal Agency for Fisheries as a replacement of MarineTraffic, which has left the Russian market. The data from Earth remote sensing were submitted to Roscosmos for evaluation, and have passed it, according to preliminary information.

The main problem is that no private space company can provide funding for the creation of a comprehensive satellite constellation by itself. And there is no regulatory legal framework related to the state support of private space companies as of yet.

So, on behalf of all private space companies, I would like to ask you, Mr President, to give instructions to update the regulatory legal framework and outline funding mechanisms for private space companies.

Vladimir Putin: I just spoke with the leaders of these six companies, and they told me about these issues in detail. So, I completely share you concerns and the concerns of your colleagues.

The most important thing is that the state is interested in involving private companies in this important joint work.

Of course, it is necessary to create conditions for it. But, as I said, the crucial condition is to create a market and organise it in such a way that it becomes profitable to work in this sphere. I think part of the funding should not be sent directly to state companies that manufacture something for the space sector; instead state resources should be channelled to those who use these services so that they can order them, and increase the customer’s role.

But, I reiterate, the most important thing is to create conditions for a market and for people to pay for these services. The first steps should be made, and then things will get busy. It will be interesting to work there from the financial point of view. We will certainly embark on this course.

We just spoke about it with our colleagues. We understand them and are interested in working together. They offer unique developments in various areas, not only as relates to Earth remote sensing, but also other spheres. They also deal with special security tasks, which is extremely important. We will definitely work on this.

Vsevolod Shevtsov: Thank you.

Makar Stepanchenko: Good afternoon. I am Stepanchenko Makar, 1st category engineer of the Special Technology Centre.

In this matter, I fully support Vsevolod on behalf of the entire STC staff, because the issue is really relevant both for us and for the entire private outer space.

I would also like to add that orbital infrastructure for remote sensing of the Earth and communications is actively developing abroad, but in our country, such development is not that active. These satellite systems are very important, and we can see from world experience that there is already successful experience of interaction between private companies and the state in the development of these systems, such as Starlink and the like. And our company is no exception. We are also carrying out forward-looking projects to develop small remote sensing spacecraft with radar monitoring. We have already launched five spacecraft, which are now successfully undergoing flight tests and performing no worse than their foreign analogues.

Vladimir Putin: They should perform better [than foreign analogues].

Makar Stepanchenko: We are trying. And what is very important, they have unification…

Vladimir Putin: Please excuse me for interrupting, but this is a matter of principle. Your motivation, your inner determination should prompt you to perform better, in this case you will be more competitive. If your spacecraft are similar – given all factors, geopolitics – you will be cut off [from global markets]. But if they are better, cheaper and of better quality, they will buy them, despite any political disagreements. This is how it is in space exploration today: cooperation continues despite any other problems. Cooperation in outer space is here – the ISS is working. Right?

Makar Stepanchenko: Right. We are working hard in this area.

Vladimir Putin: Therefore, it is necessary to do your best, especially in such an area. We have opportunities to be better than others.

Makar Stepanchenko: Yes.

We really demonstrated that the tests are truly successful, that our spacecraft fly and function well, correctly. And we are ready to develop this trend, we are ready to offer some new solutions, but indeed, as Vsevolod said, we will not be able to deploy a large enough orbital infrastructure to make it fully operational across, perhaps, even the planet, without support and attention from the state.

On behalf of both the STC and private companies, I would really like to ask you to somehow, perhaps, push for these interactions between the state and private companies and support us.

Vladimir Putin: That is what is going to happen, I have already spoken about this. But besides everything that was already said, I can only add that we just discussed the possibility of providing preferential loans through Promsvyazbank. I think we will also talk about this at the meeting today. The most important thing is a cheap financial resource. We will try to provide it too.

Makar Stepanchenko: Thank you very much.

Andrei Volyntsev: I propose we give the floor to our women. They are also eager to talk to us.

Vladimir Putin: It is high time.

Andrei Volyntsev: Lyubov Shiryaeva, Russian Space Systems, and Irina Yeseneyeva, Energia.

Lyubov Shiryaeva: Good afternoon… or rather good evening, Mr President.

I have a question about preserving and developing competencies in the industry by retaining personnel. Today, as you have already said, Roscosmos has such high-tech and resource-intensive competencies concentrated as the development and operation of launchpads and manned cosmonautics, creation of large complex geostationary vehicles and, of course, space science.

I think that in the near future private companies will not be able to develop competences because it requires a lot of resources and a large staff of scientists and highly qualified engineers, which take many years and sometimes decades to form, and experience is passed down from generation to generation.

But, unfortunately, there is a great shortage of personnel in the industry today. For example, a quarter of my team has left this year alone. Some of them go into business, others to private space companies, because today, unfortunately, salaries are not as competitive in Roscosmos as in business. We are often paid two to three times less than commercial companies can pay. And young engineers who have studied for six years at a university and mastered complex engineering specialties sometimes earn less than market couriers.

We are worried that in the near future there will indeed be a great shortage of personnel in the industry and there will be no growth opportunities in the space sector. Can we count on any fundamental changes to our professionals’ salaries in the near future?

Vladimir Putin: I think you are exaggerating about market couriers, but the salaries are average for the corresponding regions; it works out as somewhere around average wages, even slightly lower sometimes, but it should be higher. I agree, and we will definitely think about it.

To be honest, when I looked through the materials for today’s meeting, I did not even expect it to happen; I was a little surprised, because we have a procedure for certain areas of high-tech activity at scientific institutions, as you know: they must get 100 to 200 percent of the average salary in the region. But this is also, of course, a vitally important area, I cannot understand how we missed it. I agree with you.

Such issues cannot be resolved in one click, but we definitely have to think about it and move forward. We will definitely do this.

Lyubov Shiryaeva: Thank you very much.

Irina Yeseneyeva: Good afternoon, Mr President,

I am Irina Yeseneyeva, 1st class engineer at Energia Rocket and Space Corporation.

The housing issue is currently extremely important for young professionals. My husband and I are a young family, we have worked in the industry for over five years; we are thinking of having kids but we do not have our own housing yet. We tried to take out a mortgage at a well-known bank that supports our industry, but it approved an extremely low amount at a high interest rate, which was insufficient to even purchase a single-room flat in the old housing available in Korolyov.

Vladimir Putin: What was the interest rate?

Irina Yeseneyeva: 14–15 percent. And we have no way to build up our savings quickly for a down payment.

Many young professionals employed in our industry are facing this problem. Is there an opportunity to provide a subsidised mortgage for space industry employees, with reduced interest rate and requirements for the down payment, and importantly, for both apartments in newly constructed residential buildings and in secondary housing? In Korolyov, we now have a big problem with housing development, and secondary housing is what we generally have.

I believe that our industry does essential work for the nation, and we are willing to receive your support in resolving this issue.

Thank you.

Vladimir Putin: The 14-percent rate you mentioned is really high. We created a rate scale ranging from two percent and then three, five and further for certain groups of citizens and regions.

But the space industry should obviously have its own system of benefits for its workers. I will not cite specific figures now, because it would not be correct; this needs to be discussed with the Government and the Ministry of Finance to compare different terms. But as regards the space industry, which is essential for our nation and has vast potential and development prospects, we obviously have to make efforts to retain its personnel, particularly young professionals. This is totally obvious. And housing availability is a basic indicator of a job’s appeal.

We will certainly consider this. It is very important.

Irina Yeseneyeva: Thank you very much.

Vladimir Putin: Also, you have mentioned that young professionals are leaving to work for private companies operating in the space industry. You see, private business is indeed developing; we already have 150 such companies. This is still not much, but in the past few years, the number has grown from five or six companies to 150 companies involved in space exploration activities. So we will definitely move forward.

Irina Yeseneyeva: Thank you.

I would like to add a few words. I do not want to leave for another sector, I would like to support the national space sector and my enterprise where I work.

Vladimir Putin: So, you do not want to work as a delivery guy on the market, despite high wages?

Irina Yeseneyeva: It would be easier to work for the benefit of our sector if incentives were introduced.

Thank you.

Vladimir Putin: We will certainly think about this, I promise you that we will certainly work on this. We will also do our best to create the necessary social infrastructure at the Cosmodrome and near it, in the city of Tsiolkovsky, and so on. You can believe me: I raised this issue just before, while speaking with my colleagues there.

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Trade Denis Manturov: Yes, that’s right.

Vladimir Putin: The Deputy Prime Minister is confirming this, and he would not lie, he is a big shot.

Andrei Volyntsev: We have no reason to doubt that.

Vladimir Putin: I asked about facilities for young people on my own initiative. There is nothing to boast about. We noted good local roads. In my opinion, this could be interesting when Sibur and Gazprom are working, and they are doing something for themselves. I told them that we need to team up and merge. The roads are good, and it is possible to set up certain attractive centres in some areas or in all those areas, to be more exact, so that people could move and relocate somewhere, without sitting idle in one place. We need some action there, so to speak.

Andrei Volyntsev: I can also hint that it would be nice to speak with Russian Railways people.

Vladimir Putin: What about Russian Railways?

Andrei Volyntsev: There is a station, and there are tracks in the vicinity. We need an economic feasibility study or subsidy to keep the trains running, or we need an official administrative decision.

Vladimir Putin: Could you provide more details about Russian Railways?

Andrei Volyntsev: So far, we have failed to launch railway traffic to Tsiolkovsky. The position of certain Russian Railways specialists is largely responsible for this situation. I cannot vouch for the top management, we, young specialists, speak to people lower down the ladder.

Vladimir Putin: How will Russian Railways solve your problems? The runway is already complete, and aircraft will be flying soon.

Andrei Volyntsev: Just like in most regions, instead of hitching a ride, young people would find it much more convenient to take commuter trains to Blagoveshchensk on weekends.

Vladimir Putin: I see, they are acting like locals.

Andrei Volyntsev: Yes, because they now mostly go shopping and come back.

Vladimir Putin: I will speak with Mr Belozerov, the CEO and Chairman of the Executive Board at Russian Railways.

Andrei Voyntsev: I am afraid that they will no longer invite me to Russian Railways events.

Vladimir Putin: Of course, they will, do not worry.

Andrei Voyntsev: Good.

Well, this will probably be the last question or maybe not.

Vladimir Putin: Please.

Andrei Volyntsev: Oleg Platonov, the Cosmonaut Training Centre.

Oleg Platonov: Good afternoon.

I am Oleg Platonov, a Roscosmos test cosmonaut at the Cosmonaut Training Centre.

I was selected for the cosmonauts’ team five years ago, and since then I have been working hard to prepare for future space missions. You can say that it is my life. Like all the staff members at the centre and the cosmonauts’ team, I have been seriously concerned about future missions after the programme of flights to the International Space Station is over. We need new spacecraft and a new orbital station.

In this connection, we would like to ask you to give all-round support to the idea of creating a Russian orbital station, the ROS. Of course, we are aware of the current situation and the current conditions.

Here is my question: Does our country have the resources, desire and will to prevent a gap in the space flights of our people, our cosmonauts, and to implement all our space plans?

Vladimir Putin: The first point, which I regard as the most important one, is that all of us, including the Government, should understand – I believe we have this understanding – that we cannot develop space [research] and space services without manned flights. This is the first point.

The second and no less important point is that we must do everything in a timely fashion. If we fail to do the financial and hence technological groundwork in due time, this will create a gap in the sphere of manned flights. We will talk about this today as well.

Our goal is to prevent any gaps and to work systematically, so that by the time the ISS resource runs out we can gradually and eventually have not just one segment but a whole new station.

We saw one of such segments today. When can it be launched?

Yury Borisov: In 2027.

Vladimir Putin: The first segment must be orbited in 2027.

Oleg Platonov: Thank you.

Vladimir Putin: Thank you.

Andrei Volyntsev: This is encouraging.

Mr President, we are trying to correct our mistakes, and the next person wants to create the best rocket in the world. Alexander Kvetkin, the Progress Space Rocket Centre.

Alexander Kvetkin: Good afternoon, Mr President.

As the mediator has said, I am Alexander Kvetkin, section head at the main design office in charge of carrier rockets at the Progress Space Rocket Centre.

There is a global trend today to launch spacecraft using reusable launch vehicles. And we are also working on the development of such a rocket. It is called Amur and it will use environmentally friendly fuel components – liquefied natural gas and liquid oxygen. The launches will take place from the Vostochny space centre.

As a participant in this project, I would like to note that it calls for introducing new technologies, landing the booster, and creating reusable booster engines.

We know that our satellite constellation is growing fast now, which means that we need the Amur reusable launch vehicle right now. However, the sequestration of the federal space programme has been slowing us down. Is there an opportunity to help promote the development of a reusable launch vehicle?

Thank you.

Vladimir Putin: Mr Borisov, is this at your prompting? I see.

This is not sequestration. It is a certain reduction in some budget items, but on the whole, we have a large, reliable and balanced budget. Everything depends on the industries, including the space industry, on how fast they are ready to develop certain segments of their work.

What you have mentioned is very important work, because the cost of sending one kilogram into orbit is crucial for the industry we are talking about, the industry you work in. This is what makes it competitive, maybe not entirely, but to a large extent. Of course, there is a substantive part that has to do with the quality of the spacecraft that we launch, the tasks that they are able to perform in orbit, and so on. Still, a lot depends on how much it costs to put one kilogram into orbit in terms of being competitive. Therefore, the device you mentioned, a reusable booster, especially one powered by liquefied natural gas, is in great demand – both in the national economy and in terms of addressing certain security issues.

So, of course, we will work on this. We will see what has been reduced there. Mr Borisov, has the amount been reduced?

Yury Borisov: We will find opportunities. The work is really innovative and important.

Vladimir Putin: Have they cut your funding?

Yury Borisov: Mr President, they have been tightening the funding on some of the programme’s details, but in fact, I have no grudges against the Finance Ministry. We have pledged to complete all the planned projects – they have pledged to give us extra money. We have been following this path for two years, and so far, there is nothing to complain about.

Vladimir Putin: Actually, you should always complain: they will give you more. Ask for more. They will give you less, but you have to ask for more anyway. So please remind me, okay? This is important work. You have heard us, our dialogue. We will not give up this work, there is demand for it.

Alexander Kvetkin: Thank you very much.

Andrei Volyntsev: Thank you. Your answers are encouraging, so the question is about the most pressing issue.

Denis Dyomin, Lavochkin Research and Production Association.

Denis Dyomin: Good afternoon, Mr President.

Denis Dyomin, head of the design office at Lavochkin Association. I have a question about Luna-25, which has already been mentioned today. This spacecraft was made largely by a young team that was formed specifically for this project, and the emergency situation that occurred, of course, has upset us all very much.

Vladimir Putin: Me too, to be honest. It was so frustrating.

Denis Dyomin: Yes. But, on the other hand, we understood that it would be very difficult to go down this path without making mistakes. We had a huge break of almost 50 years; we mostly used new technology, and we had to restore certain things and create new competences. The team that was working on this has not given up; it is carefully analysing the errors that occurred and the technical solutions that are planned for further missions. This gives us confidence in the future missions. Now we are planning Luna-26, which is an orbital vehicle, and Luna-27, a landing vehicle.

However, it is very important to hold this team together, prevent it from losing all these competences that have been acquired in practice at such a high price. So, in order to do this, we must by all means prevent a gap in the development of the lunar programme, so that if we don’t launch anything again for 10 years, we will again lose these accumulated competences.

So, my question is: will the domestic lunar exploration programme continue to be supported? Let us not stop.

Vladimir Putin: It will. When is our next vehicle launch planned? What year, 2027?

Yury Borisov: We will try maybe even move it up: there are such plans for 2026. But for now, it is 2027.

Vladimir Putin: Well, I was not mistaken, the next launch is in 2027.

Yury Borisov: It has funding, so we will continue.

Vladimir Putin: Mr Borisov is suggesting that we do not plan on closing it. But mistakes are mistakes, and this is such a complex field of activity. It is a pity for everyone, I assure you. However, this is cosmonautics, space exploration, and very complex challenges. Everyone knows all this. Moreover, as Mr Borisov said, it is already clear in general what happened and why. Well, yes, it is frustrating, but this is still an experience, albeit negative, that will be used in the future so that there are no mistakes. I am sure.

Then we will have an intermediate orbital flight, then one with landing. We will do everything. Then, no one has landed in this place, on this peak; so everything looks very promising and interesting. We will definitely work on it, and the lunar programme will continue.

Denis Dyomin: Thank you very much.

Andrei Volyntsev: And Yury Novikov from Arsenal Design Bureau will touch upon a very hot topic.

Yury Novikov: Good afternoon, Mr President. I work at the Arsenal Design Bureau in St Petersburg.

You told private business that it is necessary to manufacture better equipment. And I thought, Russia has the world’s only nuclear icebreaker fleet, which opens the strategically important Northern Sea Route for us.

I think the closest parallel to what we are doing is that we are creating a space nuclear icebreaker of sorts. I am joking, of course. In fact, our enterprise is designing a transport energy module with a nuclear unit with a capacity of 500 kilowatts. This capacity will not only allow it to reach the most remote corners of the solar system but will be able to power equipment that we have never even launched into space.

Unfortunately, we only have a state contract for the preliminary design. It means that the future of this project has not been determined yet; but we already proved by experiment that the key elements and systems can be made. For instance, the power conversion system and a very complex gas turbine unit. There are no such projects in the world, even on paper.

The state contract for the preliminary design will expire in 2024, and then what? Naturally, this project bears high technical risks and requires significant funding by the state. But if we stop, we might not only lose time, but also our advantage. So far, we are the first.

Mr President, can we count on your support of this ambitious project? Thank you.

Vladimir Putin: Yes, you can. I will tell you a joke later when we meet one-on-one. But the joke is not about our reality, which is that we are the first in this area, and everyone else is behind us. This area of development is very important, we spoke a little about it at the exhibition. The exploration of deep space is probably impossible without it.

Therefore, many of our partners are showing interest in cooperating in this area. But we will need this engine unit ourselves for space exploration, and our lunar programmes also require a high-capacity source of power, so we will continue working on it. I do not know all the details related to the planned funding, but we will definitely continue this development and will provide the necessary funding to make this programme go forward, you can be 100 percent certain.

Yury Novikov: Thank you very much, Mr President.

Andrei Volyntsev: Mr President, we would be happy to keep talking to you, but we know that you have another meeting ahead. I would very much like you to continue working as energetically as possible to resolve issues there.

I would like to thank you very much. I saw how nervous the participants were before the meeting, how our issues seemed hopeless, but you changed the situation.

Most importantly, they heard today that what they are doing benefits the country, and that the country is also concerned about our problems.

Vladimir Putin: I amsure that when they chose their career path, it was because they knew it was important and interesting. If our meeting confirmed this, I am happy about that. This means that the goal of today's meeting in this sense has been achieved, at least partially.

But it is not over yet, and I see your colleague over there raising his hand, wanting to say something.

Nikita Chudinov: Mr President, thank you very much for the opportunity to ask a question. It has to do with manned flights from Vostochny.

When we were choosing the orbit for the ROS, we assumed that all launches would be carried out from a Russian launch pad. But we are still unable to launch our old proven Soyuz from Vostochny. There are a number of problems with Vostochny; they can be resolved, but we were told that it is easier to abandon the old spacecraft. A decision was made to use only the new one to fly to the ROS. But Soyuz has its own niche. Both spacecrafts will be in demand at the ROS.

Mr President, is it possible to raise the issue of fine-tuning Vostochny to be able to carry out all launches from our launch pad? As a ballistician, I can give you this reason. From Baikonur, there will be significant loss in payload, 600 kilogrammes, and in this sense, it would be…

Vladimir Putin: I know. Mr Borisov and I have just discussed this. We will take steps in this direction.

Mr Borisov, when will the launching platforms be ready?

Yury Borisov: In general, it is 2027 for the Angara rocket. But the question raised is absolutely correct. As you may recall, we told you we had piloting risks with the only launch from Baikonur. We will discuss it out with our colleagues, there is a problem with the launch escape system, it should work differently than at Baikonur. But if we find a solution, it is expedient to do so.

Chief Designer of Rocket and Space Corporation Energia Vladimir Solovyov: This is interesting, Nikita. Actually, you were my student.(Laughter.)

Mr President, how do you like this? The Vostochny Space Launch Centre had a problem with the equatorial launch inclination 51 degrees, like the one of the ISS. Our spacecraft fly over the Pacific Ocean as soon as they are launched.

If we launch a spacecraft from Baikonur, they reach the Pacific in just 11 seconds. It is a matter of safety, which is especially important during the stage separation period, when problems usually arise.

As I told you, the ROS will fly in a polar orbit. It has a different inclination, and our spacecraft will fly over a territory that is not very good, but it is our territory. It is dry land.

Vladimir Putin: What do you mean by “not very good territory”?

Vladimir Solovyov: It is marshland, and when you get closer to the Arctic Ocean, it is just very cold. But it is nothing like a Force 5 storm over the Pacific, and rescue operations are much easier to conduct because we have airfields and landing strips there. We analysed the matter, and we are ready to make launches from Vostochny to a polar orbit with an inclination of 96 degrees.

So yes, we must do his. We continue working with the ISS. We believe that we can continue doing this at the Baikonur launch pad if we are careful. But as I said, in case of emergencies, if the pad becomes unusable, and if we continue to fly to the ISS, we will have to think about a rescue system for the Pacific.

Vladimir Putin: Here you are. You have the answer of your former teacher. He is your former teacher, but for me he is the first and only authority. Of course, we will take the experts’ opinion into account.

Andrei Volyntsev: Colleagues, I would like to coordinate our further…

Alexander Afonin: May I ask one more question?

Vladimir Putin: Please do.

Alexander Afonin: Good afternoon. It will only take a second, really. My name is Alexander Afonin, and I am a leading design engineer at JSC Composite.

Young professionals have this problem in Russia: it is difficult for us to unlock our full potential. And it is not only about the excessive regulations or bureaucracy, the problems that we talked about today. In order for a project to be noticed and supported, it needs to reach a national scale.

Yes, there are various local platforms, grants, university and regional levels. But if we want a breakthrough, if we want to jump into the day after tomorrow – because the Chinese and other space powers are already jumping into tomorrow – as I said, we need the national scale.

Here is an example of how this idea could be implemented: a national contest of technology projects in the rocket and space industry – a unique platform where young specialists could meet, exchange ideas and generate unique products, such a huge melting pot of new ideas. If the winners of this competition are subsequently supported with grants, we will move forward very quickly. I actually have a slogan ready for such a contest, it came to me just now: “Every cause is driven by people who are passionate to drive that cause forward.”

What do you think about this idea? Would you support such a contest?

Vladimir Putin: The idea is good, but the slogan is a bit long.

Alexander Afonin: We will work on it.

Vladimir Putin: You will need to shorten it and to make it catchy. But I think the idea itself is good. (Addressing Yury Borisov.) Mr Borisov, we need to support it.

As you know, we have many good initiatives in various areas aimed at finding the most promising proposals and the people who make these proposals. Bearing in mind the importance of the industry, we certainly can – and must – organise a contest like this. Let's do it – why not? I will be happy to do it. I think it will attract thousands of people and raise the prestige of space projects.

Alexander Afonin: That is what we are counting on.

Vladimir Putin: That is right, it is a good proposal. Thank you.

Alexander Afonin: Thank you very much.

Vladimir Putin: Let us wrap it up, shall we? Or the big guys waiting in the next meeting will be angry with you.

Ilnar Khairullin: Good evening, thank you for the opportunity to ask you a question in conclusion. My name is Ilnar Khairullin, I am a student at Samara University and I am undergoing training at RSC Energia.

Our university has the Rocket and Space Technology Department, where Russian nationals study alongside foreign nationals from Central Asia, Africa and South America. Many of the students are ambitious young people, who have travelled halfway around the world to study here; they earn a Bachelor’s degree or a Master’s degree, and take part in scientific competitions and volunteer activities. However, after graduation they cannot get a job in the space sector at home because their country does not have one.

Vladimir Putin: Great! That’s it. We just need to grab young talents, of course, we need to get them.

Ilnar Khairullin: Yes, and I want to make the following proposal: since their countries are unable as yet to manufacture space technology but the people I am talking about are real enthusiasts, why not create “reservations” for scientists here?

Vladimir Putin: “Reservation” is not a good word. But why should we not attract the talented young specialists we need?

Ilnar Khairullin: For example, this is what NASA is doing when they build teams of foreigners who work on their local projects, say, it can be the creation of smaller space vehicles for their countries or they can simply process orders.

Vladimir Putin: You are right, I agree. It is definitely a good idea, all the more so because these people have already been living in our country for several years and speak our language. Of course, I agree, if these are really talented young people who are keen on this work. Moreover, since other countries have sent them here, we can think about ways to build relations with our partners in this area, so that they do not lose these people forever. I cannot agree more with you and thank you for this idea. We need to address this issue by all means. Thank you.

Ilnar Khairullin: Thank you.

Vladimir Putin: Thank you very much.

I want to wish all of you success in the fascinating field that you have chosen to work in. Of course, it is challenging and diverse work, and it is associated with many risks and I do not only mean the risks that cosmonauts are running but also risks for those engaged in space exploration because technological and technical risks – I am referring to the Luna 25 [automatic station] that we just talked about – are also risks. It takes people many years to complete a project and then – bang! – and something goes amiss. Things like this seriously hurt them, particularly if these are ambitious people and are keen to achieve a concrete result. However, this is interesting and much-needed work.

I sincerely wish you every success because your success – and these are not empty words – contributes, to a great extent, to the success of our country’s technological development and this is essential for Russia’s future. Thank you for joining this industry and for feeling so strongly about the industry’s problems and interests. I sincerely wish you every success.

Andrei Volyntsev: Mr President, thank you. A few lines from the poem “Vasily Tyorkin” seem to be an appropriate short epilogue to our meeting (below is an extract from Alexander Tvardovsky’s poem “Vasily Tyorkin”):

“If we do not dig in, we will pull through,

If we are alive, we will not die.

When the time comes, we will go back,

And reclaim what we have yielded.”

Thank you. We will continue to work.

Vladimir Putin: Thank you for remembering Vasily Tyorkin.

October 26, 2023, Korolyov, the Moscow Region