Russia supplied China with technologies that helped implement its lunar program, the CEO of Russia’s Roscosmos corporation, Dmitry Rogozin, told the radio station Komsomolskya Pravda in an interview on Wednesday.
“Few know that the Moon probe China launched exists primarily thanks to Russia’s radioisotope thermoelectric generator. In fact, we provided an isotope generator that keeps the Chinese probe going. China is implementing its space program with Russia’s support,” he said.
Rogozin said that space cooperation benefited both countries.
“The Chinese are making good progress. Their space program is well-funded. They have made considerable progress technologically. At first, they replicated Soviet technologies, but now they have moved much farther. They have the financial, organizational and technological capabilities for setting ambitious goals.”
On March 9, Roscosmos and the China National Space Administration said they had signed a memorandum of understanding on cooperation in creating an international lunar research station. The signing ceremony was held in a video-conference mode. Russia and China plan to use joint experience and scientific technologies for building an international research station on the Moon. As follows from the statement, bilateral cooperation in this field envisage studies of the lunar surface and joint projects in lunar orbits.
A radioisotope thermoelectric generator (RTG, RITEG) is a type of nuclear battery that uses an array of thermocouples to convert the heat released by the decay of a suitable radioactive material into electricity by the Seebeck effect. This type of generator has no moving parts.
RTGs have been used as power sources in satellites, space probes, and uncrewed remote facilities such as a series of lighthouses built by the Soviet Union inside the Arctic Circle. RTGs are usually the most desirable power source for unmaintained situations that need a few hundred watts (or less) of power for durations too long for fuel cells, batteries, or generators to provide economically, and in places where solar cells are not practical. Safe use of RTGs requires containment of the radioisotopes long after the productive life of the unit. The expense of RTGs tends to limit their use to niche applications in rare or special situations.