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Russia to launch weather satellites

Russia has no weather satellites in orbit. The Meteor-M spacecraft is to fill up this substantial gap in the satellite group in 2006, says a report by the Russian Space Agency (Roskosmos).

“The completion of the construction, tests and the launch of the Meteor-M weather satellite and a smaller craft Canopus-Vulkan (for detecting man-caused catastrophes and first signs of earthquakes and avalanches) are scheduled for 2006,” Roskosmos said.

According to the draft of a new federal space program, allocations to remote Earth sensing will be almost 4 billion rubles in 2006 ($1=27.99 rubles), the document said.

So far, the Russian weather forecasting structures have to use rather expensive information from foreign weather satellites. “We have only one weather satellite in orbit, Meteor-3M-1, which works in other directions but does not provide weather information due to malfunction,” a representative of the Russian Hydrometeorolgical Service (Rosgidromet) said.

“We use information from American, Japanese and some other land survey craft,” he said. Before the 1990s, 32 Meteor-series weather satellites were built and launched on the orders of Rosgidromet. That craft was one of the key components of the Service’s surveillance system and helped significantly improve the quality of weather forecasts and organize environmental monitoring of the vast territory of the former USSR.

But beginning in the 1990s the development of the domestic weather satellite system was halted due to financial problems.