Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 208

On November 7 Russian workers at the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan began fueling the Zarya cargo module–the first component of the new International Space Station (ISS). The five days of fueling are in preparation for a planned November 20 launch. The Russian-made cargo module–built under a US$200 million contract signed by Moscow’s Khrunichev Space Center and the U.S. aerospace giant Boeing–is to be carried into space on a Russian Proton booster rocket. In December NASA is to launch a U.S.-built module into space, where it will link up with Zarya. The third component of the ISS, the Russian-built service module, is scheduled to be launched in July of 1999.

The ISS project is already a year behind schedule, in large part because of problems faced by Russia’s cash-strapped space establishment in building the service module (AP, Itar-Tass, November 6). On November 4 Russian Space Agency officials said that they had received some US$34 million from NASA to help fund construction of the ISS components. The payment is the first installment of a US$60 million package approved by Congress (UPI, November 4). Its cash woes have humbled Russia’s once-proud space program. They have also led some in the United States to question the utility of Washington’s decision to underwrite the Russian effort. The ISS project as a whole is expected to cost more than US$40 billion and includes the participation of Japan, Canada and the twelve European nations along with the United States and Russia.