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News briefs: January 29
Posted: Wed, Jan 30, 2002, 8:46 AM ET (1346 GMT)
  • A leading Russian government official claimed Tuesday that Russia planned to vacate the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan by 2005. Alexander Kosovan, Russian deputy defense minister, said on Russian TV that Russia would transfer launches to the Plesetsk Cosmodrome in northern Russia to avoid paying Kazakhstan the $115 million annual rent for Baikonur. Outside observers believe this may be a negotiating tactic to reduce the cost of the Baikonur lease, in part because it is highly unlikely Russia could make the move by 2005 and still be able to launch payloads into geosynchronous orbit or ISS.
  • NASA has scheduled the long-delayed launch of a space science satellite for February 5. The High Energy Solar Spectroscopic Imager (HESSI) spacecraft will be launched on a Pegasus XL flying out of Cape Canaveral, Florida. The launch has been on hold since June because of investigations of failures of the X-43A hypersonic demonstrator and missile defense rocket, both of which used components similar to those on the Pegasus.
  • The growing Enron bankruptcy scandal has an indirect NASA link, the Washington Post reported Tuesday. The auditing firm Arthur Andersen, currently under scrutiny for its role in the Enron affair, made a $644 million error in its audit of NASA's 1999 financial statements, and was criticized by the General Accounting Office for failing to meet professional standards. The federal government is taking this into account as it determines whether both Arthur Andersen and Enron are qualified for federal contracts.
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