Russia's Progress M48 unmanned tanker docked to the International Space Station (ISS) on 31 August, carrying 2.5t of supplies. Before the latest resupply vessel arrived at the ISS, the Progress M47 tanker had undocked from the Zvezda module docking port and re-entered the Earth's atmosphere on 28 August.

Progress M48 is the third cargo craft launched to the ISS this year, and Russia's space sector is feeling the strain of supporting the station during the grounding of NASA's Space Shuttle fleet. "It is becoming a costly business," says Yuri Semenov, head of Russian spacecraft manufacturer Energia. There are legal hiccups in the agreement on funding support from the USA, says Semenov, who is "trying to convey this problem" to the Russian and US presidents.

Yuri Koptev, head of Russian aerospace agency Rosaviakosmos, says the new budget allocation of Rb3 billion ($98 million) for the country's participation in the ISS will support 11 crew rotation flights aboard Soyuz TMA ferries and the necessary number of Progress M tanker flights to supply 80t of propellant to maintain the station. None of the money will fund new modules and if further funds are not forthcoming, Koptev says, Russia's participation in the ISS will be limited to crew and cargo transport.

Stanislav Kulikov, director of Russia's Lavotchkin Science and Production Association, has been sacked after a series of military and civil satellite failures. An OKO geostationary orbiting early warning satellite launched in April malfunctioned within three months; an OKO craft launched in April 1998 also lasted only three months; the first Arkon-class optical reconnaissance satellite, launched in June 1997 operated for just four months after suspected damage to the craft during the roll-out of its Proton K booster at Baikonur; and in November 1997, a Kupon communications satellite experienced problems soon after reaching orbit and stopped operating six months later.

Source: Flight International