China and South Africa have agreed to partner on space initiatives for the first time.
During a meeting of BRICS nation leaders—a group consisting of Brazil, India, China, and South Africa—Chinese President Xi Jinping signed two agreements with South Africa to collaborate on space-related projects.
According to Chinese state media agency Xinhua News, one of the agreements covered human spaceflight, and the other brought South Africa onto the team for China and Russia’s planned International Lunar Research Station. Few details about the agreements were disclosed.
Two teams form: For decades, Russia and the US have been partners in spaceflight through the ISS. In recent years, though, heightened tensions between the two countries—including through sanctions on Russia after its invasion of Ukraine last year—have led to a deepening rift that has left Russia and its resource-starved space program to look for partners elsewhere.
China has partnered with Russia on a number of upcoming projects, including the International Lunar Research Station, a planned lunar base consisting of a space station in lunar orbit, a complex on the lunar surface, and a fleet of robots. The two nations have said that the project is open to all others who would like to join, and have signed on a handful of partners.
The US, on the other hand, has partnered with several nations on Artemis and is making efforts to build international cooperation in lunar exploration through the Artemis Accords. Brazil and India are signatories.