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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Space Sector Feels Pinch Over Launches

Revenues earned from commercial space launches could be halved this year to $260 million after the United States failed to extend quotas on the launch of U.S.-made satellites by Russian rockets, industry sources said Wednesday.

As a result, leading space company Khrunichev State Research and Production Space Center has secured only three commercial launches for 2001 compared with six last year, the sources said.

The launch of foreign satellites has accounted for more than half of the $800 million earned each year for the past few years, said Vladimir Kirillov, space analyst with the Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies.

Two quota deals clinched in the 1990s by the United States and Russia allowed 21 liftoffs between 1993 and 2000.

But the U.S. government said in December that it would allow the launch quotas to expire without offering any explanation for the decision. Previously, the government had said it wants to see Russia implement more safeguards against technology leaks before setting a new quota.

Khrunichev is to carry out a total of 11 launches with Proton rockets this year compared with 14 in 2000, said a former Khrunichev employee, who asked not to be named.

Click here to read our special report on Russia's New Space Age.The three commercial launches will carry a price tag of about $70 million each, the former employee said.

The other eight Proton launches are for the Defense Ministry and the Russian Aviation and Space Agency, which pay small profit margins, he said.

However, those profits will be even smaller this year because Khrunichev has repeatedly borrowed Proton rockets from the Defense Ministry for commercial launches and still owes three — the same number that the ministry has already ordered for 2001, an official at the Strategic Missile Forces said in a recent interview.

On top of the $210 million earned by Khrunichev for commercial launches, other space companies that use rockets like the Start-1 and Kosmos-3M should bring in $40 million to $48 million in commercial contracts this year, Kirillov said.

All said, 29 launches are planned for the year, comprising 22 from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, six from the Plesetsk springboard in northern Russia and one from Svobodny in the Far East. In comparison, Russia carried out a total of 38 launches in 2000, according to the Russian Aviation and Space Agency.