Roskosmos Drafts 206 Billion-Ruble Plan To Replenish Satellite Fleet

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MOSCOW – The Russian Federal Space Agency (Roskosmos) has drafted a new plan for civil space activities that gives priority to satellite-based telecommunications, navigation and Earth observation, according to Anatoly Perminov, the agency’s director-general.

The 2006-2015 civil space program would cost 206 billion rubles ($7.4 billion) to implement, according to Roskosmos. If fully funded, the nine-year program should enable Russia to replenish its satellite fleet and honor its international space station obligations, Perminov said.

Under the program, Russia would launch 26 spacecraft next year alone, Perminov told the State Duma’s science and industries committee April 13 . These would include Soyuz-TMA crew capsules and Progress cargo ships for the space station as well as navigation and telecommunications satellites.

The program also calls for upgrades to the Russian-run Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan and to the Plesetsk Cosmodrome in northern Russia, Perminov said in a separate appearance at a conference April 12 marking Space Exploration Day, which commemorates the first human spaceflight by Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin.

According to a transcript of Perminov’s speech posted on the Roskosmos Web site, he also singled out development of an astrophysical laboratory dubbed Spektr and a planetary probe called Fobos-Grunt as priorities.

Other development efforts encompassed in the nine-year plan include new launch vehicles, such as the Angara, already well behind schedule, and a new crew-carrying capsule called Klipper, he said.

During the hearing before the Duma, Russia’s parliament, Perminov said implementing his plan will cost more than 24 billion rubles in 2006, which is roughly 30 percent more than Russia’s 18.5 billion-ruble civil space budget for 2005.

Russian space officials have laid out similarly ambitious space plans in the past, but have not been able to secure the budgets necessary to carry them out.

Perminov said the latest plan has been endorsed by the Ministry of Economic Development and Trade, which examines most federal innovative projects. Now, he said, it will be up to the federal cabinet to decide in May whether to endorse the program and, thus, open way for its implementation.

If endorsed by the cabinet, the plan would form the basis for Russia’s civil-space budget request for 2006, which will be presented to the Duma this summer.

But Perminov acknowledged during the hearing that endorsement by the cabinet and even approval by the Duma provide no guarantee that the funding will come through. He noted, for example, that from 2002 to 2005, the government’s allocation for civil space activities was 2.84 billion rubles short of what was approved by the Duma over that period.

As a result, Roskosmos was able to launch only three of six planned Glonass navigation satellites in 2003, and thus had to defer its goal of having an operational 18-satellite constellation on orbit from 2005 to 2007, Perminov said.

The Glonass system needs a minimum of 18 satellites to provide truly global navigation for its military and civil clients. There were 12 functioning Glonass satellites in orbit as of April 20 , according to the government’s official Glonass Web site.

All in all Russia has 99 satellites operating in orbit, Perminov said.

Meanwhile, Perminov said during an April 6 press conference here that Russia is intent on replenishing its severely degraded satellite-based missile warning system. Before being tapped as director-general of Roskosmos, Perminov ran Russia’s military space program, which is funded separately.

Russian space officials have been talking about replenishing the early warning fleet for years, but the rhetoric has failed to translate into any substantive action.

But Perminov said some cash has already been allocated for industry to start working on new early warning satellites. He did not elaborate on the condition of the current on-orbit fleet.

By SIMON SARADZHYAN