Russia Will Fulfil Its International Obligations in Space Area

Russia intends to fulfil its international obligations to its business partners in the space area, Director General of Rosaviakosmos, the Russian Aviation and Space Agency, Yuri Koptev said in an interview with RIA Novosti.

On Thursday, the Russian government will hold a session to discuss the procedure of Russia's fulfilling international obligations in the space area. Yuri Koptev will make a report on the issue.

According to the Russian Aviation and Space Agency Head, the participants will discuss co-operation with partners in building the International Space Station as well as with the European Space Agency /ESA/. In compliance with the Russia-ESA agreement, Russia is drafting a project to build a firing pad on the cosmodrome in the French Guiana. This firing pad is to be used for launching Russian Soyuz carrier rockets.

When touching upon International Space Station problems, which emerged after the crash of the American Columbia shuttle, Yuri Koptev pointed out that Russia was currently the only country to support the life of the Station.

"Given this, at the government meeting on Thursday we will consider the issue of increased expenses inflicted on Rosaviakosmos. We are convinced that the Station should not be closed down, it must remain on the orbit," he said.

Yuri Koptev believes responsibility for supporting the International Space Station can fall on Russia not in 2003 alone. After the 1986 crash of the first American shuttle, Challenger, the flights of their "space shuttles" were suspended for 2.5 years, he recalled.

According to the Russian Aviation and Space Agency Head, his Agency will raise the issue of receiving additional money from the government. "In the first quarter of 2003 we already received 1.2 bln roubles extra on account of the third quarter expenses," he said. "However, this money is only enough to launch the construction of two or three new space ships for 2004, but it is not enough to build them through".

Yuri Koptev positively assessed the level of co-operation between Rosaviakosmos and NASA. "The American side always informs us of investigation of the Columbia crash causes, while NASA Head Sean O'Keefe intends to arrive in Russia in late April. On April 26th, together with a team of American space experts he will visit the cosmodrome Baikonur to witness the launching of the ship with the Station's Expedition Seven comprised of Russian Cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko and American astronaut Edward Lu.

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