Russia signs MoU with China for deep space exploration. Pictured, Russia's Soyuz MS-09 spacecraft carrying the members of the International Space Station (ISS) Expedition 56/57 as NASA astronaut Serena Aunon-Chancellor, Roscosmos cosmonaut Sergey Prokopyev and German astronaut Alexander Gerst blasts off to the ISS from the launch pad at the Russian-leased Baikonur cosmodrome, June 6, 2018. VYACHESLAV OSELEDKO/AFP/Getty Images

Russia has signed a memorandum of understanding with China in order to cooperate with the latter in the field of moon and deep-space exploration.

In a recent statement, Russian space agency Roscosmos State Corporation announced the agreement, which came shortly after the talks between Russian President Vladimir Putin, who arrived in China for a state visit Friday, June 8, and his counterpart Xi Jinping.

Dmitry Rogozin, the new director-general of the Russian space agency and the country’s former deputy prime minister, struck the cooperation deal with Chinese National Space Administration, aka CNSA, administrator Zhang Kedzhan. The agencies didn’t reveal specific details relating to the agreement, but the latest move is the third instance of Roscosmos’ gradual shift toward CNSA in last few months.

Back in March, the two countries agreed to establish a joint data center for deep-space projects, while in 2017, the agencies agreed on a bilateral cooperation program focusing on space debris monitoring and research into the moon and deep space, among other things, for a period of four years. The nations have also expressed readiness in the past to cooperate in lunar programs, with China assisting with the launch of Russian orbital spacecraft Luna-Resurs-1 (Luna-26) in 2022 and Russia helping with China’s ambitious project of landing on the south pole of the moon in 2023.

Though Russian space cooperation has mostly been associated with the United States and has worked with the latter for nearly three decades on the International Space Station (along with Europe, Canada, and Japan), according to a recent Popular Mechanics report that cited sources at Roscosmos, the Russian space agency started working on a contingency plan earlier this year, one that could see the country shifting its human spaceflight cooperation from the U.S. to China.

The move, as the report added, came in the wake of worsening relations between Moscow and Washington, and could happen before or after the expiration of the International Space Station. However, there is still no confirmation from of the agency.

That said, China, on its part, has advocated international cooperation in the field of aerospace. The country plans to launch the China Space Station, aka CSS, in 2019 and has been vocal that all UN-member nations would be allowed to utilize its capabilities.

“CSS belongs not only to China, but also to the world. All countries, regardless of their size and level of development, can participate in the cooperation on an equal footing,” Shi Zhongjun, the country’s ambassador to the UN, recently said, China’s official Xinhua news agency reported. “Through the vehicle of CSS, we would like to build up a model of sincere mutual beneficial cooperation among countries in the peaceful exploration and use of outer space”.