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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

U. S. Gives Russians Millions For Space

Russia's struggling space industry will get up to $800 million from the United States to build a joint space station as a reward for signing a controversial missile-control treaty, Russia's top space official said Wednesday.


Yury Koptev, general director of the Russian Space Agency, told a press conference that the deal was the only way to save the Russian space agency, which he said was slowly dying from lack of funds.


"We are unable to preserve our space industry without commercial projects and international cooperation", he said.


Koptev gave details on three deals that were signed by Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin and U. S. Vice President Al Gore in Washington early this month.


He said that Russia had received promises on the new space station project and on an agreement sharing out the market for commercial satellite launches that would give Russia eight to 12 launches by the year 2000.


In exchange, Russia signed the Missile Technology Control Regime, which Koptev said obliged it to consult with the United States before exporting missile technology.


Koptev said that negotiations were now underway to decide whether this would mean that Russia would have to cancel a $150 million deal signed three years ago to sell cryogenic rocket engines to the Indian space program. The United States recently imposed sanctions on China for selling missiles to Pakistan.


The Russian parliament has issued a decree saying that it would have power of veto over the missile-control treaty and is holding an inquiry into the cancellation of the Indian rocket deal.


Koptev justified the decision to work with the United States by saying that only the American, Japanese and European space agencies had the money to support a real space program.


"The space industry is going through difficult times", he said.


Koptev said that Russia's space industry had been promised 81 billion rubles ($81 million) in this year's budget but so far had received only half that sum. He said that the industry had survived thanks to $11 million earned by launching French cosmonauts.


Koptev said that the Russian-American Commission on Power Engineering and Space was now working out the details of a three-stage program for the joint space station project.


"We are also ready to resume appropriate negotiations with Indian side", he said.


In the first stage, Russian cosmonauts will be launched on the U. S. space shuttle and American astronauts on Russian rockets. Both crews will then orbit on Russia's Mir space station for 3-6 months.


The exercise will help develop a system to allow the U. S. shuttle to dock with Mir.


In the second stage of the plan, the two companies will build and launch a new orbital space station, Mir-2, based on Russia's existing station.


The craft will be equipped with new docking devices suitable for all Russian, American and other international space ships. The first launch is planned for 1997.


In the last stage of the project, space ships and satellites from third countries including Japan, Canada and the European Space Agency will be adapted into the program.


According to the agreement signed in Washington, the United States will pay $400 million to Russia's space industry for the first two stages of the program. The total payment for all three stages will total between $600 and $800 million.


Koptev said that agreement called for the drafting of contracts by Nov. 1. He said that $100 million had been allocated to the program in the 1994 U. S. budget but he admitted that this faced opposition in the U. S. Congress.


Koptev said that the program would start to pay for itself by 2020, thanks to fees that international space companies would pay for the use of the space station.


According to Koptev, Kazakhstan, which is the owner of the only big launch site used by Russia, the Baikonur cosmodrome, had not taken part in the Russian-American negotiations, but was likely to be involved in the future.


"We have no choice but to cooperate with Kazakhstan", he said.


Meanwhile, an Australian company, Space Transportation Systems Ltd. , announced that it had signed a deal with three of Russia's top space industry firms for the construction of a huge cosmodrome in Papua New Guinea, with the first launch expected to take place in 1998.