Rosaviacosmos has signed a $200 million third party insurance policy with Russian insurance companies Megaruss, Avikos and the Industrial Insurance Company to cover the de-orbiting of the Mir space station, planned for around 21 March.

The Russian space and aviation agency paid a premium of up to $1.4 million. London-based insurance companies are providing reinsurance protection.

Mir's systems, including the mainframe computer, have been switched on to provide data on its operational condition as part of the preparations for its controlled re-entry once the perigee of the station's orbit reaches 220km (140 miles).

Russia's 2001 space budget is$48 million, less than half what is required, according to Rosaviacosmos. India spends twice as much on its space programme, the agency says.

Source: Flight International