ESA, the European Space Agency, is (formally) independent of other international cooperations like the European Union. After the fall of the Soviet Union, were there ever any proposals for ESA to join with the Russian space agency? ESA does accept new smaller member states now and then, including the former Soviet republic of Estonia in 2015. In the 1990s Roscosmos had big financial problems but also world leading space competence and assets. Among them the flight ready Energia/Buran launch system. There seems to have been potentially great synergies with such a merger.

Also, Ukraine and Kazakhstan had important space industries and assets, so I'd like to include them in this question.

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    $\begingroup$ Really unlikely. The relations between EU and Russia are strenuous. If not necessity for cooperation due to mutual economical dependence, they would be outright hostile. And while cooperation is welcome (Europe's money, brainpower and drive to space presence, Russia's facilities and economically competitive launch vehicles) such merger would be about impossible due to political reasons. $\endgroup$
    – SF.
    Nov 16, 2016 at 15:14
  • $\begingroup$ Furthermore whilst ESA has member states, some of which in turn have their own space agencies, ESA has never "joined" with any space agency of a member state. $\endgroup$
    – Puffin
    Nov 30, 2016 at 22:38
  • $\begingroup$ That would imply Germany and France accepted this first (which for France would be a no-go due to military reasons). However ESA made a deal with Roscosmos to launch Soyuz from Kourou. $\endgroup$
    – mins
    Dec 30, 2018 at 14:00

1 Answer 1


I've never seen serious discussion of Russia becoming an ESA member state. It's fairly unlikely to happen as Russia would see this as a degradation.

There is extensive cooperation between ESA and Russia on various programs:

  • Soyuz rockets are launched from the ESA launch base at Kourou
  • some ESA scientific missions carry Russian instruments, and vice versa
  • both are partners in the ISS, ESA astronauts train in Russia and are launched by Soyuz

In the 1990s after the collapse of the Soviet Union, ESA started working towards this situation by inviting the Russians into various programs (including the Hermes manned space program then underway).

From a 2011 press release:

Russia is ESA's first partner in its efforts to ensure long-term access to space. There is a framework agreement between ESA and the government of the Russian Federation on cooperation and partnership in the exploration and use of outer space for peaceful purposes, and cooperation is already underway in two different areas of launcher activity that will bring benefits to both partners.


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