Russia Federal Space Agency chief Anatoly Perminov has confirmed that the Russian space agency is in talks to help Cuba build a space centre. The revelation comes even as political tensions between the United States and Russia continue to mount with the latter dispatching two supersonic Tu-22M 'Backfire' bombers to Venezuela, ostensibly for mutual exercises.
The arrival of these supersonic, swing-wing, long-range strategic and maritime strike bombers is a first ever in the South American and Caribbean region and is widely being regarded as the Russians cocking a snook at the Americans.
"We have held preliminary discussions about the possibility of creating a space center in Cuba with our help," Perminov told Itar-Tass. "With our Cuban colleagues, we discussed the possibilities of joint use of space equipment ... and the joint use of space communications systems."
According to the report, Cuban specialists will visit Russia to survey Russian space technologies. It is also reported that Cuba has shown interest in using the Russian Glonass satellite navigation system, which is their equivalent of the American GPS system.
Though the talks to develop a space centre in Cuba may appear to be aimed at annoying the Americans, as some analysts fear, NASA and Washington may have to tread carefully in the matter as NASA looks almost certain to fall back on Russian space craft to take astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) and transport supplies into space as it persists with the retirement programme of its space shuttle fleet.
Officially, the space shuttle fleet retires in 2010, which means that there will be a four or five year time gap, until the Orion programme comes into operation, where NASA will be unable to send astronauts into orbit without assistance. In this period, NASA will have to either forgo sending supplies or men into space entirely, or rely on Russia to pick up the burden.
Before tensions between the two nations erupted over the conflict in Georgia, the US was working on a plan to pay Russia millions by way of transportation fees. Geo-political tensions are now compelling American politicians to rethink the proposed deal.