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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Russia Given Deadline for Space Station


Russia, eight months behind schedule in building a key element of the International Space Station, has until Feb. 28 to provide money for the project or the United States will make other plans, space agency officials said.

NASA administrator Daniel Goldin told a congressional committee that Russia has repeatedly failed to keep its promises of financing and building a space station service module, and that the U.S. agency is now making tentative plans to use surplus U.S. military hardware instead.

"Time after time we have been told the problem would be solved. It wasn't," Goldin said in testimony Wednesday before the House Science Committee. "It is costing us time, money and the morale of our people."

He said the National Aeronautics and Space Administration "will take action based only on observed performance, not mere statements of intent. It is the only prudent course."

The unfolding crisis appears to confirm the worst fears of critics, who said in 1993 when Moscow was brought into the program that the Russians would not prove to be reliable partners.

Under the International Space Station agreement, Russia was to build and finance a module to provide guidance, navigation, crew quarters and orbital control for the station. The service module is the third element of the station and is to be launched in April 1998.

Rockets on the service module will boost the station into a higher orbit; without the module, the station would fall to Earth in about a year.

Work on the service module has stopped because the Russian government has failed to pay contractors who are building the hardware. The funds were approved by the Russian legislature, but have not been released by the Finance Ministry.

Goldin said Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin promised in a meeting with U.S. Vice President Al Gore last week that the Russian government would provide, by the end of February, money needed to complete the service module.

NASA has agreed to provide a $20 million loan to the Russians as a boost until their funding is released, but that is only a fraction of the billions of dollars Russia eventually must pay to build and operate the space station.

Representative James Sensenbrenner Jr., chairman of the committee, said the Russian government has twice broken promises to allocate money for the service module and that he and others on the committee have run out of patience. ()