Russia is making a bid for leadership of the International Space Station (ISS) programme in the face of NASA budget cuts and programme management criticism.

Yuri Koptev, director of Russian aerospace agency Rosavia kosmos, says his country should take a larger role in the ISS. As NASA cuts its budget, eliminating the ISS crew return vehicle (CRV) and the habitation module, Koptev says: "The situation may evolve in such away that Russia could acquireleadership in the project." He adds that any prospect of Russia launching a Mir 2 national space station to replace the original has been ruled out.

Russia has used its international programmes to boost its space industry. Koptev says that Russia has earned $3.5 million from commercial launches for international customers, primarily through Proton flights for International Launch Services.

ISS astronauts Carl Walz and Dan Bursch made a six-hour spacewalk from the US Quest airlock module on 20 February to prepare equipment outside the station for use by the Space Shuttle STS 110 crew in April to assemble the central integrated truss structure and mobile transporter.

Source: Flight International