Australia's Industry Minister to discuss in Russia construction of Christmas Island cosmodrome

Australia's Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane plans a two-day visit to Moscow next week to discuss details of a joint construction project -- a commercial cosmodrome on Australia's Christmas Island in the Indian Ocean.

Macfarlane said that his intention is to discuss with Rosaviakosmos representatives the licensing and protection of rights to Russian space technologies, which will be used on Christmas Island.

An agreement between Australia and Russia, presupposing the use of Russian Avrora carrier rockets, was signed in Moscow in December 2001. On the Russian side the agreement was signed by Rosaviakosmos director-general Yuri Koptev.

According to Macfarlane, the Russian and Australian sides were able to agree on 90 per cent of the deal. Only questions connected with the procedures for transferring and employing technologies on Australian soil remain unresolved.

In particular, the sides still have differences connected with Australian customs legislation, under which all technologies imported into the country must be subjected to close scrutiny.

According to the minister, this rule was viewed negatively by the Russian side.

"Australia takes an understanding view of Russia's desire to protect the intellectual substance of its technologies," he said. "At the same time one of the main tasks of the Australian government is to protect its sovereign interests".

Macfarlane expressed confidence that the sides would agree on disputed issues.

Under the agreement, preparation and conduct of space launchings will be undertaken by Russian specialists. The Australian side in the person of the Asia-Pacific Space Centre company will provide infrastructure and commercial evaluation of projects.

The Australian government has allocated 56 million US dollars as its financial contribution to the Centre. The first launch from the Christmas Island cosmodrome in the Indian Ocean is expected in 2004.

It is planned to make 4 to 5 blastoffs from the new commercial cosmodrome annually.

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