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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Firms Sign Quake-Watch Satellite Deal

PETERSBURG -- Plans to use satellites to monitor early warning signs of earthquakes took a step forward when local defense industry giant Arsenal signed on with American partners to gear up the first satellite.

"We're going to work toward a global observation system," Boris Poletayev, chief designer of Arsenal's construction department, said Monday. "This will give us a chance to specialize in civil production."

On the American side, signers of the protocol included the Russian-American joint venture Santa Barbara, which specializes in boosting defense conversion projects, and the Galaxy Aerospace Management company, headed by former U.S. astronaut Gordon Cooper.

In the long-term, the $12 million to $13 million project envisions a network of 10 to 12 satellites orbiting the earth and monitoring electromagnetic waves, which some scientists believe can predict imminent earthquakes as far as a week in advance. According to the proposal, monitoring equipment will first be piggy-backed on one of Arsenal's available satellites and sent into orbit to collect further data.

The first launch is set for 1998.

If the data supports the electromagnetic theory, Arsenal will begin production of a new line of satellites to continue the work permanently.

Arsenal has been working on the project for nearly five years. Philip Myers, president of Santa Barbara's American partner OPP-2, said he and Gordon first heard of Arsenal's plans in August.

"It struck a chord for both of us, coming from earthquake country ourselves," Myers said. "It just seemed to have all the right elements," including defense conversion potential and humanitarian importance, he added.

Funding for the project is expected to be split between the Russian and American sides, with investment coming from a range of government and private organizations.