Russian help eyed for space station U.S. seeks ways to slash costs

April 07, 1993|By Los Angeles Times

WASHINGTON -- Russians may help redesign the American Space Station Freedom.

The United States and its European and Japanese space partners have agreed to give "full consideration" to possible Russian contributions, White House science adviser John H. Gibbons said yesterday.

Russian assistance would be sought if engineers thought it would prove valuable in helping the National Aeronautics and Space Administration slash the costs of the proposed orbiting laboratory.

With total cost of the planned Space Station Freedom estimated at some $30 billion, the Clinton administration concluded earlier this year that the project would have to be abandoned unless a less expensive design could be produced.

Aiming at cutting the design, development and operating cost by at least half, a redesign team named by NASA administrator Daniel Goldin has until June 7 to give the White House options for a smaller station.

Mr. Goldin said Russian participation during the redesign period will be coordinated through the East-West Space Science Center at the University of Maryland.

Possible roles for the Russians in the revamped program include an emergency escape vehicle for space station astronauts and the use of components from Moscow's MIR space station. NASA engineers also have studied the possibility of using the Energia, a huge Russian rocket, to put American payloads into orbit.

Still in the early phases of the station redesign effort, NASA engineers are considering the possibility of launching the U.S. station into an orbit that would put it into close proximity with MIR for cooperative research efforts or assistance in an emergency.

While plans call for the United States to launch the station and to provide its central facility, the European Space Agency and the Japanese Space Agency have pursued development of science modules that will provide for much of the research that will be carried out.

Though the budget squeeze has caused the United States to search for a less expensive option, Mr. Gibbons and NASA officials have said that a top priority is to come up with a new design that will enable the international partners to participate as planned.

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