The Russian government approved on Thursday the country's space program that gives priority to developing a research module for the International Space Station ( ISS) and a multi-entry spacecraft in 2006.
Anatoly Perminov, head of the Federal Space Agency, said Russia 's aerospace sector will focus on two major projects in 2006: the development of a research module, which is expected to be launched and dock with the ISS in 2008, and the Kliper multi-entry spacecraft, the Itar-Tass news agency reported.
Perminov said the 23 billion rubles (821 million US dollars) in federal funding in 2006 "suits us," but the space program also seeks 130 billion rubles (4.6 billion dollars) in extra budgetary funding within the next decade to help cover costs for building spacecraft, maintaining space facilities on the ground and other projects.
Speaking at the cabinet meeting that approved the space program, Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov also warned against the lack young engineers in the space industry.
"We won't get far. If there's no inflow of young personnel, we can lose everything, despite the investment of this money," Fradkov said.
Russia's space program has been the ISS' lifeline for more than two years since the suspension of US shuttle flights after the Columbia shuttle disintegrated on Feb. 1, 2003, as it returned to Earth.
The launch of US shuttle Discovery, which marks the first shuttle flight since the Columbia disaster, was scrubbed hours before its planned liftoff Wednesday due to the malfunction of a hydrogen fuel sensor on the external fuel tank.