Soviet Agency Seeks U.S. Cargo For Its Rockets
NEW YORK (AP) _ Soviet officials said Monday the U.S. government should not stand in the way of American companies that might be interested in having their cargoes shot into space aboard Soviet rockets.
The officials spoke at the conclusion of a weeklong tour of Washington, Houston and New York that was intended to drum up interest in use of Soviet launchers for American satellites and experiments.
The Soviets hope to carry foreign payloads to defray the huge cost of building rockets. But the Pentagon is concerned about the Soviets getting a look at U.S. high technology, and U.S. companies have expressed some concerns about the safety and timeliness of Soviet rocket launches.
″Unfortunately we do not know how the American companies will respond,″ said Dmitry Poletaev, a department chief of the Soviet Space Agency, at a New York news conference.
Poletaev was asked whether the Soviets hoped to persuade American companies to bring pressure on the U.S. government to allow them to use Soviet rockets.
″I believe if there is an interest in that, there might be - maybe not a pressure - but there could be questions rising to the U.S. government in this respect″ from the companies, Poletaev said through an interpreter.
″The Russians have an interesting offer,″ said Jeffrey Friedman, who handles long-term satellite strategy for American Telephone & Telegraph Co. ″It’s one of the possibilities we would have to look at.″ Friedman said AT&T does not plan to launch its next satellite until around 1992.
Friedman said about 90 people, including representatives of 10 or 15 U.S. companies, attended a presentation by the Soviets last week in Washington. Coordinating the tour were two Soviet agencies: Glavcosmos, which seeks foreign launch contracts, and Licensintorg, the Soviet licensing organization.
The Soviets also met with U.S. government officials. ″Unfortunately we didn’t get any direct encouragement,″ Poletaev said. He said the Soviet government presented information but did not ask U.S. officials how they stood.
Space Commerce Corp., a private Houston-based company, hopes to buy room on Soviet rockets and resell it to U.S. companies. Art Dula, the president, said Monday he had received ″numerous requests for information,″ but nothing beyond that.
″They’re all afraid of doing business″ with the Soviets, Dula said in a phone interview.
The Soviets promise that U.S. payloads could be brought to the Soviet Union in sealed containers and that American scientists could handle them up to launch time. But skepticism about the security of the cargoes has remained.
″There’s no assurance that the sophisticated types of satellites the Soviets have so graciously offered to put into space would not be compromised,″ Navy Cmdr. Robert Prucha said Monday.
Prucha said the Pentagon would be likely to oppose the granting of export licenses to U.S. companies interested in taking high-technology cargoes to the Soviet Union for launching, although it would weigh each case individually.
U.S. companies are also concerned that the Soviet Union has not given detailed information about the safety record of each of its rockets or the schedule of coming launches, which would give companies an idea of how long they might have to wait if a launch failed or was scrubbed.
But Friedman said he was impressed by the reliability of the Soviet rocket, which is based on proven, 20-year-old technology, and by the ″very competitive″ insurance offered by the Soviet government.
Giving the Soviets an opening is a series of setbacks in U.S. satellite launches and the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger. When shuttle flights resume, they will be heavily devoted to military cargoes.
″The American program’s going to come back. The only thing our company’s interested in is taking care of a short-term problem,″ Dula said. ″We’re sure not doing it for the Russians; we’re doing it for America.″
″Basically what you see is a further internationalization of business. ... Everybody’s playing close to the vest. But they’re talking to each other, too,″ said Anthony Cipriano, board chairman of Space Commerce Roundtable Foundation Inc., which analyzes space issues from an investor’s viewpoint.