A spokesman for the Russian Space Agency (RSA) announced in Moscow yesterday a US$60 million deal whereby NASA will purchase research time on the international space station from Russia. The deal, which must still be approved by Congress, is intended both to help the cash-strapped RSA finish construction of a key space station component and to avoid further costly delays in the launching of the sixteen-nation project. The Russian Khrunichev company has completed construction of the first of the components to be sent into space–the cargo module. It is to be launched into orbit on November 20. But the chronically underfunded RSA has failed three times to meet its deadline on completion of the Service Module, which is now scheduled to launched into orbit in July.
Under the terms of the deal announced yesterday, Russia will let NASA use research time on the international space station that had previously been reserved for Russian scientific experiments (AP, Itar-Tass, October 5). The deal would appear to reflect a shift in status for Russia that space officials had long feared–from that of a partner in the US$21 billion project to that of a contractor to the United States. Last week a top NASA official denied a report that the United States would have to come up with more than US$600 million in emergency funding for in order to save its space partnership with Russia (UPI, October 5).
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