Russia's space industry: plagued by funding again

MOSCOW. (RIA Novosti political commentator Andrei Kislyakov)

In the next two years Russia intends to put on the statute book the integration of the defense sector, and especially its space industry, as a priority area of national security.

"Roskosmos (Russian Space Agency) is currently forming 11 large integrated structures in the space and missile industry," its head Anatoly Perminov told a round table discussion at the Federation Council, which discussed the legal status of the space branch as part of Russia's national security effort. "Our industry," said Perminov, "is able to fulfill the federal space program up to 2015, but everything will depend on the funding."

Only adequate financing, or rather concentration of money in well-developed space centers, can help implement the ten-year space program to restore and replenish in a timely manner Russia's orbital formation and carry out manned near-Earth missions and deep space studies. "And although many said that the federal space program is not ambitious enough, it nevertheless can restructure the industry, increase the number of satellites in space, and regain the potential we have had in the recent past," Permonov noted, summing up the tasks and general condition of Russia's cosmonautics.

Our past was indeed remarkable. With an average annual number of about 100 space launches, Russia could afford to have the largest renewable orbital formation. Today, however, according to Roskosmos, "... Russia has only 96 spacecraft in space, 62 of them well past their service life." Things are no better with military craft. According to the Roskosmos head, 33 out of 40 spacecraft have outlasted their usefulness.

Considering that "the United States' funding is 30 times higher and China's 2.5 times higher than ours," it means we can produce top-quality space equipment and orbit spacecraft without hitches and mishaps only through maximum integration of the space industry. But that calls for a dependable legal background.

Today, Russia's space effort is dogged by more than 400 statutory edicts and norms. Many of them are obsolete, duplicate each other and disagree with the newly issued laws on space activities.

This disarray fails to cure a long-rooted illness - the perilous state of production facilities. "Manufacture of challenging systems is in doubt because of outdated production equipment," said the Roskosmos chief.

If the government, following the round-table recommendations, draws up and adopts a law on integrated structures in the defense sector before 2008, then recovery of the Russian space branch can be assured.