Publication: Monitor Volume: 3 Issue: 39

? Russian Space Agency general director Yury Koptev told reporters in Moscow yesterday that the launch of the first element of the International Space Station Alpha would be delayed from November 1997 to June 1998 because Russia has not been able to build a key component on time. While the first module to be launched — also Russian built — is finished and is being tested, the problem is with the service module in which those manning the station will live and work. It was scheduled for an April, 1998, launch but Koptev said it was 12-14 months behind schedule because the government had not provided enough money. He said there was no point in launching the first component on time if the service module would be delayed. A NASA official challenged Koptev’s statement and said that while the agency "respects the opinion of Mr. Koptev — no final decisions have yet been made at all." (Itar-Tass, Reuters, February 24)

NASA has been considering other options and some members of Congress have even suggested dropping Russia from the international program entirely. Another Russian Space Agency official recently downplayed such threats. Deputy Director Boris Ostoumsky said that "given the amount of redesigning and construction the Americans would have to do, I don’t really think these threats are too real. They’re just trying to exert pressure on our government to find the money." (St. Petersburg Times, February 22-29)

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