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Tuesday, September 22, 1998 Published at 02:19 GMT 03:19 UK


Sci/Tech

Nasa picks up Russia's bill

The Americans are having to pay more for the International Space Station

Yet again the American Government is to find more money to subsidise the Russian space effort. Our science editor Dr David Whitehouse reports.

The American space agency Nasa is to ask the US Government for permission to buy an extra $660m worth of equipment and services from the Russian Space Agency over the next four years.

It is an effort to inject more cash into Russia ailing space industry and ensure that vital components of the International Space Station are delivered.

Politicians in Washington are said to be annoyed at having to find yet more cash for the Russian space effort but have added that it will cost less than abandoning the space station altogether.

The first components of the station are due to be launched on a Russian rocket in November but insiders expect it to be delayed.

Nasa has notified Congress and the White House budget office that it wants to buy $60m worth of Russian spacecraft within the next two weeks. Another $40m will be spent by the end of the year.

That $40m would be the first instalment of up to $150m a year that Nasa wants to pay Russia over the next four years. That would cover about half the annual Russian cost for the project.

But one Nasa official has said that they cannot be sure that Russia can come up with the other half.

Recently Nasa's chief Dan Goldin said that the cost of the Russian bailout plus modifications to the space shuttle fleet to compensate for Russian equipment as well as other remedial measures are estimated at about $1.2bn.

But he added that if Russia was not able to fulfil its space station commitments it would cost at least $2bn. To date Nasa has paid Russia more than $400m for goods and services, including the recently ended series visits to the Russian space station Mir.



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