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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Tokyo, Moscow Will Test Japanese Shuttle in Russia

Russia and Japan have signed a contract to test a model of the Japanese unmanned space shuttle Hope, using the equipment of a Russian aerospace institute, an industry official said Thursday.

The $180,000 contract was signed in December between the Russian Central AeroHydrodynamical Institute (TsAGI) and Japan's Sumitomo Corp. and Fuji Heavy Industries, said Nikolai Kashirin, Sumitomo's Russian representative. The two Japanese companies have been contracted by the National Space Development agency of Japan, or NASDA.

Under the contract TsAGI is to build a prototype of the shuttle and conduct comprehensive tests, Kashirin said.

"All tests are to be finished by September 1995," Kashirin said.

According to the institute's foreign contracts manager, Natalia Lunyakova, the first stage of aerodynamic tests will take place in June.

Toshiro Azawa, a spokesman for the Japanese Embassy in Moscow, said the contract is very important for Japan, which does not have facilities of its own that could carry out aerodynamic tests on the shuttle.

Japan has its own space program, but until recently it has been limited to satellite launches. The first flight of the space shuttle is scheduled for 1999. Japan is also planning to take part in the construction of the international space station Alpha, together with Russia, the United States, Germany and Canada.

TsAGI is situated in the city of Zhukovsky, 40 kilometers southeast of Moscow, and has some of the most advanced aerodynamic testing equipment in the world. Almost all Russian aircraft, as well as the Russian Buran space shuttle, have undergone testing there.

TsAGI Director Vladimir Neiland said in a telephone interview that it is the Japanese agreement, along with several other foreign contracts, that will allow the institute to stay alive.

"Budget cuts have put us and the whole aerospace industry on the verge of death. So for us, foreign contracts help us to keep our unique specialists and to continue work," he said.

According to a report of the Russian Space Agency, Russia and the Soviet Union have launched 2,656 rockets and have put 2,976 satellites and spacecraft in orbit. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union the number of launches and aerospace production have declined dramatically with the withdrawal of government support, but aerospace industry officials are trying to keep factories busy with foreign contracts.

"The institute offered potential Western partners low labor costs and considerable aerospace expertise. Our technology is no worse and in some aspects is even better than anywhere else. The main problem is money," said Neiland.

According to Yury Koptev, head of the Russian Space Agency, Russia will have to cut back on its space program because of a lack of funds: "There is no sense that space activities should be a national priority, and there have been no practical steps to back it up financially."