PARIS AIR SHOW: Russia happy to help with India space plans

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India and Russia have started discussing collaboration for an Indian manned space programme, but no agreements or contract have been signed, says Anatoly Perminov, head of the Russian Federal Space Agency.

India has been developing a plan for a manned space programme due to domestic political pressure after the success of the Chinese human spaceflights, which were achieved with Russian help.

As well as helping India with spacecraft development, there have been talks about a flight on an Energia Soyuz spacecraft for an Indian cosmonaut in 2013. The astronaut would be the second Indian to fly on a Soyuz. Indian air force Sqn Ldr Rakesh Sharma flew on Soyuz T-II in 1984.

Speaking at the Russian delegation press conference at Le Bourget, Perminov said: "We will be very happy for the opportunity to help the Indians."

Perminov confirmed his agency's preference for the International Space Station to continue operating until 2020. He said negotiations about how ISS use would be extended beyond the existing 2015 end date would begin soon. Perminov indicated that NASA's lack of an administrator since January, after President George Bush's appointee resigned, has held up negotiations.

Perminov also expressed frustration with the burden Russia will now bear providing all the crew transport and a substantial part of station resupply after NASA's Space Shuttle is retired in 2010. If this situation is to continue beyond 2015, Perminov says he wants the European Space Agency and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency to accelerate development of their cargo vehicles. ESA has plans to develop what it calls an advanced re-entry vehicle for bringing back cargo to Earth.

On space tourism to the ISS, Perminov expects the flight in September of the Canadian Guy Laliberté will be the last for the foreseeable future because the ISS crew will increase to six. But he said tourism would "not be abandoned".

Asked about the agency's dealings with Iran over satellite launches, Perminov said all his meetings with Iranian ambassadors had taken place because of Iranian government requests, and he did not understand what the Iranians wanted. The ambassador was a different person at almost every meeting, he added.