Julian Moxon/PARIS

THE ROW OVER European funding for the proposed Alpha international space station has led to a bout of accusations between individual members of the European Space Agency (ESA).

The French space agency, CNES, has lashed out at other European countries which are accusing France of dragging its feet over funding. The new president of CNES, Andr‚ Lebeau, complains that it is "not tolerable" that France is being asked to pay for the space station's rescue.

The ESA is trying to come up with ECU 1.8 billion ($1.33 billion) between 1996-2000 to cover development of the Crew Transfer Vehicle and Columbus orbiting laboratory. The deadline for a settlement of contributions was due at the end of March, but Lebeau points out that France "...cannot do anything definitive" until after the French presidential elections in May.

Lebeau adds that "...if all countries, particularly the UK, put in the same level of money as France, there would be no problem". France's role is not "...to compensate for the lack of money from countries for whom the station is not a priority". He wants Germany to take a more significant role. "She places herself as leader. Therefore she must take a larger share of the responsibilities," he says.

Presenting the 1994 budget for CNES, which is essentially stable at Fr12.1 billion ($2.5 billion) - (40% of which is provided by ESA contracts) - Lebeau said that ESA members were "...not looking hard enough at a solution". He says that the impasse must be resolved by the end of July so that a final decision on European participation in the station can be taken by the ESA council of ministers' meeting in Toulouse in October.

Source: Flight International