THE RUSSIAN SPACE Agency (RSA) has been refused the use of two Molniya boosters by the country's military space forces. The launch vehicles are required to allow the RSA to launch the Prognoz satellites as part of the 14-nation Interball project to study the Earth's magnetosphere.

The RSA has no boosters of its own and has to obtain them from the defence ministry, to which it already owes money for launchers borrowed earlier.

The defence ministry is using a reserve of boosters and no new launchers are in production. Only seven were manufactured in 1994.

The mounting problems of the Russian space industry culminated in an unprecedented meeting on 26 May between space leaders.

Col. Gen. Vladimir Ivanov, commander of the Russian defence ministry's military space forces - Yuri Koptev, director of the Russian Space Agency (RSA) - Yuri Semenov and Mikhail Reshetnev, directors of the NPO Energia company and Anatoli Kislelev director general of Khrunichev, met at the Plesetsk Cosmodrome, to discuss problems facing the space programme.

The troubles for Russia mount as the country heads for its 3,000th satellite launch, scheduled for October - 38 years after the launch of its Sputnik 1, the first spacecraft to orbit the Earth.

The country reached the 2,986-satellites mark on 25 May with the launch of an early-warning satellite on a Molniya booster from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome.

The launch of the remaining 13 spacecraft, will be dependent upon co-operation between Russia's military and civilian space organisations.

The country's communications-satellite system is now under great threat. Of Russia's 24 geostationary-orbiting satellites, 18 have passed their operational-lifetime limit and no new communications satellites have been launched this year.

Source: Flight International