Russia remained the world leader in space launches in 2006, and is preparing to expand its lead by inaugurating a new -- but cautious -- era of space cooperation with China, the head of Russia's Federal Space Agency says.
"Russia's current share in the spacecraft launch market is about 40 per cent, and counting joint Russian-Ukrainian launches from the sea launch platform it totals about 45 per cent of all launches conducted in the world," Anatoly Perminov told a Moscow news conference.
In 2006 Russia lofted 24 space vehicles, including "naval launches" conducted with Ukraine. The USA came second with 18 launches and 28 per cent of the market. China and Japan came third with 6, and European Union came fourth with 5 launches.
Russia will cooperate increasingly with China in space endeavours, including its planned robotic mission to the moon in 2010, Perminov said.
Russia has sold China much of the technology developed by the Soviet Union for its abortive manned moon mission in the 1960's, but will not sell newly developed technologies in the near future.
"The Chinese are still some 30 years behind us, but their space programme has been developing very fast," Perminov said.
"We aren't transferring any technologies to China now. This issue has been under special control of the government," he added.
China completed its first successful manned orbital mission in 2003, in a Shenzhou spacecraft that closely resembles the Soviet-designed Soyuz. Another Chinese manned flight is slated for next year.
Perminov played down recent Russian rocketry failures, such as two consecutive crashes of Bulava missiles test-fired from nuclear submarines in October and November.
"Nothing horrible has happened," he said. "It's necessary to continue work and pay more attention to fine-tuning all its parts and components on the ground."
Next year the Russian space industry expects over $1-billion in funding and about 20 space launches.
The Russian space industry is expected to boom after US space shuttles stop flying in 2010 and Russian-built Soyuz vehicles become the only means for re-supplying the International Space Station and other orbital missions for at least 4 years.