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    Russia faces problems in developing space technology

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    MOSCOW. (RIA Novosti political commentator Andrei Kislyakov) 

     In 2007, the world will mark the 150th anniversary of the birth of Russian scientist Konstantin Tsiolkovsky, the father of astronautics and formulator of the jet propulsion theory, as well as the 50th anniversary of the Soviet Union's launch of the first space satellite in history. Consequently, all eyes will once again turn to Russia's space program.

    The country's future prospects in space will also be determined next year. Russia's space plan calls for the launching of military, scientific and telecommunications satellite clusters. This primarily concerns the Global Navigation Satellite System (GLONASS), an ambitious national project. The 18 GLONASS satellites needed to cover all of Russia's territory are expected to start operating reliably by late 2007.

    However, GLONASS is not the only important goal. This country plans to continue to upgrade its aging launch vehicles, service the International Space Station (ISS) and develop new spacecraft, including satellites that can operate for a decade rather than just 12 months. This is why Russia needs a powerful, multi-purpose and cost-effective spacecraft industry, something that seems to be lacking today.

    It appears that nothing has been said this year about the need to expand this aspect of space activity. Nor have any detailed plans with ambitious deadlines been compiled. It would be logical to suppose that the bold plans demanded by the present-day reality require a tangible material base, i.e. workshops with state-of-the-art equipment at companies whose managers do not constantly have to think about paying back wages. Nevertheless, we have once again opted for our usual approach, setting goals and attaining them without a solid foundation.

    On October 11, 2001, the Russian government approved the federal target program "Overhauling and Expanding the Defense Industry in 2002-2006." A conference on July 6 of this year that discussed the same issue indicated there had been no achievements in this sphere.

    This time, the government has focused on a strategy for expanding the space-rocket industry between now and 2015. Anatoly Perminov, director of the Federal Space Agency (Roskosmos), said Russia's 100-plus space-rocket companies will be merged into 10 integrated companies, and the entire industry will have just three or four corporations by 2015. It is a tried and tested way. Unfortunately, they are only now starting to implement this plan, rather than in 2001.

    The Russian space industry will eventually be reorganized along civilian lines, but who is going to work there? The problem is that its 250,000 employees have an average age of 46. In effect, Russian space companies are getting older and more obsolete in every respect, including their human resources. Two years ago, it seemed that the industry would attract young people by offering them housing and interesting work, and many of them did indeed decide to sign up with companies in the space industry.

    However, in addition to the space-rocket industry, Russia must overhaul its armed forces under another ambitious national project. Still, how can one combine planned army service contracts with the decision to abolish deferments for eligible conscripts? From now on, defense industry workers, who were exempt from mobilization even in the fall and winter of 1941, when the country faced Hitler's war machine all on its own, will be drafted into the army.

    This year, Anatoly Perminov has repeatedly discussed this issue with Army General Yury Baluyevsky, head of the Russian Armed Forces' General Staff.

    The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and may not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.

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