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    Russia may put space program under state defense order

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    The Russian Federal Space Agency Roscosmos said on Wednesday it is considering returning the federal space program to the framework of the state defense order to ensure steady financing and reduce the number of accidents with space launches.

    The Russian Federal Space Agency Roscosmos said on Wednesday it is considering returning the federal space program to the framework of the state defense order to ensure steady financing and reduce the number of accidents with space launches.

    "It would be beneficial to return the federal space program and the Glonass program to the framework of the state defense order," said Vitaly Davydov, deputy head of Roscosmos.

    "It would bolster discipline in issues related to financing, quality control and schedule deadlines in manufacturing," Davydov said.

    The Russian aerospace industry has faced a series of misfortunes over the last nine months. In December, 2010, a Proton-M booster rocket failed to put three Glonass-M satellites into orbit.

    The launch of the Rokot booster rocket carrying a military geodesic satellite Geo-IK-2 ended in failure in February.

    After the first two mishaps, a number of senior space industry officials were fired and Roscosmos's chief, Anatoly Perminov, was forced to resign.

    However, the problems persisted as the aerospace industry failed to manufacture the planned number of spacecraft and incidents with the launches continued.

    On August 18, a Russian Proton-M rocket lost the prized Express-AM4 satellite that was designed to provide digital television and secure government communications for Siberia and the Far East.

    One week after the Express-AM4 went off course, a Soyuz-U booster malfunctioned, preventing the Progress M-12M cargo spacecraft from reaching orbit. Its debris fell in Gorny Altai, Russia.

    The loss of Glonass satellites alone cost the state 4.3 billion rubles ($152.2 million).

    In 2010, President Dmitry Medvedev ordered the government to prepare a new federal program for Glonass, covering the years 2012-2020. The original 10-year 2001 program ends in 2011.

    Roscosmos said in June that the agency was looking for a funding of 402 billion rubles ($14.35 billion) for the program.

    Glonass is Russia's answer to the U.S. Global Positioning System, or GPS, and is designed for both military and civilian uses. Both systems allow users to determine their positions to within a few meters.

    Russia currently has a total of 27 Glonass satellites in orbit, although only 23 of them are operational.

    The complete Glonass grouping must have 24 operational and 2-3 reserve satellites for the Glonass network to operate with global coverage.

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