Lukashenko wants to make Belarus space nation

MINSK, February 2 (Itar-Tass) -- Belarus must become a space nation, President Alexander Lukashenko said on Friday.

"It is a matter of Belarus' transformation into a space nation, which may have more than one satellite," he said. Belarus "must be fully autonomous in the operation of satellites, and data must be transmitted directly to the Belarussian territory," he said.

The current economic status of Belarus and relations with Russia may bring about corrections in the Belarussian space plans, he said.

According to the presidential press service, foreign nations have shown interest in Belarussian space projects. For instance, France has offered to assist the launch of a new satellite. "Who would be our partners - Russia, China, Ukraine or somebody else - and what would be the terms?" Lukashenko wondered.

So far, Belarus does not have any satellites. The BelKA-1 distant earth probing satellite designed by Russia for Belarus was lost in the abortive launch of a Dnepr rocket on July 26, 2006. The Energia Aerospace Corporation said it was ready to build another satellite for Belarus. If that is done, the Belarussian satellite will become part of an orbiting cluster, which would make it operation more efficient.

Lukashenko ordered to design a satellite with the resolution of 2.1 meters within less than 2.5 years. The production of a satellite with the resolution of one meter (twice better than that of BelKA-1) would take four to four and a half years, the presidential press service said.

Russia and Belarus are also developing a multifunctional space system, which would supply diverse information to governmental agencies and other end users. This system is a key task of the Union State's space program for 2008-2011.