Tim Furniss/LONDON

THE RUSSIAN parliament has adopted a resolution which, if ratified, will secure financing of the country's space programme at a level of "no less than 1% of the GNP [gross national product]", and establish a national space policy.

Parliamentary approval would "...at least prevent the further worsening of the situation, if not improve it", says one analyst (Flight International, 1-7 March).

Evidence provided by Russian military and civilian space officials to the Russian Parliament revealed that the space budget in 1994 was only 10% of its 1989 level and that financing of the military space programme and rocket production was down by a factor of ten.

Only one-half of the planned launches in 1994 took place and the Russian Space Agency (RSA) received only 12% of its budget requirements. As a result, 34 of 70 long-term programmes originally planned were curtailed.

The civilian space programme was described as "doomed", with 50% of its staff having lost their jobs or left. The military space programme "...would collapse within three years", the Parliament was told, with military and civilian launches of satellites to replace ageing or obsolete spacecraft becoming almost impossible.

Vladimir Ryumin, a former cosmonaut and now director of the Mir space-station programme, says that the budget is "so miserly" that the space station may not be able to support manned flights for much longer and "...may have to be evacuated". Restored to a minimal level, the space budget may just be enough to support the planned Space Shuttle/Mir docking missions, starting in June.

Support for Mir operations would require 5,500 billion roubles ($780 million at the market- exchange rate), but the 1995 budget is only 660 billion roubles - less than 1.5% of this was released in the first two months of this year.

The RSA is prepared to postpone the planned Soyuz TM21 launch of two cosmonauts and the US astronaut Norman Thagard on 14 March for budgetary reasons. In addition, the Soyuz booster to launch the Progress M27 tanker to the Mir in April, to support Thagard's mission, will be taken from a dwindling military arsenal.

Components required to complete construction of the Spektr module, to be launched to the Mir in May to support US space operations, have not yet been delivered, even though the work has been paid for by NASA.

It has also been revealed that Russia's contribution to the international Alpha space station is not guaranteed beyond the first component, the FGB space tug.

Source: Flight International