Space Image

Kazakhstan Joins China-Led International Lunar Research Station

Kazakhstan has taken a significant step in expanding its role in space exploration by signing a memorandum of cooperation on the China-led International Lunar Research Station (ILRS).

  • More details coming soon...
Zac Aubert

Zac Aubert

Sat Jul 06 2024Written by Zac Aubert

Kazakhstan has taken a significant step in expanding its role in space exploration by signing a memorandum of cooperation on the China-led International Lunar Research Station (ILRS).

This agreement, part of a broader series of bilateral agreements, was signed during Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to Kazakhstan on July 3. The visit resulted in the signing of 30 documents aimed at enhancing cooperation between the two countries, including the development of space exploration initiatives.

The ILRS is an ambitious project led by China, aiming to establish a permanent lunar base in the 2030s, using a super heavy-lift launcher. This base will facilitate lunar exploration and the utilization of lunar resources, positioning China as a key player in global space exploration efforts.

Strengthening Bilateral Space Collaboration

A joint statement issued by the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs emphasized the importance of this collaboration.

“two sides support exchanges and cooperation between the two countries’ aerospace agencies and enterprises in the peaceful use of outer space, promote mutually beneficial cooperation in the moon and deep space, and reception and exchange of remote sensing data.”

Additionally, the memorandum includes exploring the commercial use of each other’s spaceports.

The Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, originally established by the Soviet Union, is currently leased to Russia until 2050. Kazakhstan also hosts the Sary Shagan Test Site, both of which could play crucial roles in future space launch activities. China's interest in boosting pad access for emerging commercial launch service providers aligns with these developments, potentially enhancing Kazakhstan’s space infrastructure.

During his visit, President Xi Jinping addressed the Shanghai Cooperation Organization+ Summit in Astana, Kazakhstan, on July 4, where he stated,

“China welcomes all parties to use the Beidou satellite navigation system and participate in the construction of the International Lunar Research Station.”

This invitation reflects China’s broader diplomatic efforts to engage multiple countries in its lunar exploration endeavors.

Expanding the ILRS Partnership Network

Kazakhstan’s inclusion in the ILRS marks it as the 12th country to join the initiative, following recent signatories such as Serbia, Nicaragua, and Thailand.

The ILRS project, formally announced in June 2021 by China and Russia, has since attracted a diverse group of participants. These include countries like Venezuela, Pakistan, Azerbaijan, Belarus, South Africa, and Egypt, as well as various organizations and firms from around the globe.

China’s strategic moves also include establishing the International Lunar Research Station Cooperation Organization (ILRSCO), which will coordinate and manage the construction of the ILRS moon base. This organizational structure aims to streamline collaborative efforts and ensure the project's successful implementation.

ILRS Missions and International Cooperation

China is set to launch precursor ILRS missions in the 2020s, including the Chang’e-7 mission around 2026 and the Chang’e-8 in-situ resource utilization technology test mission. These missions will target the lunar south pole and lay the groundwork for the construction of the ILRS.

The ILRS initiative stands as a parallel yet separate program to NASA’s Artemis Program, with both projects aiming to lead in lunar exploration and resource utilization. While the U.S. has secured partnerships through the Artemis Accords, China continues to build its network of collaborators for the ILRS, reflecting the competitive yet cooperative landscape of international space exploration.

Kazakhstan’s involvement in the ILRS represents a significant step in its space exploration journey, enhancing its capabilities and partnerships in the global space community.