Uzbekistan Planning First Satellite

Tashkent, Uzbekistan/May 18, 2001/Satnews/ -- Uzbekistan plans to launch a communications and military satellite sometime next year, the country's top space official said Thursday.

The satellite, the first for Uzbekistan, will orbit close to the earth and be used for communications and to observe territory in the country and surrounding regions, said Kamol Muminov, director of the Uzbekkosmos space agency.

He said the craft will be used for both peaceful purposes and for national security.

Muminov said "intensive work" on the project has begun, and that Uzbekistan is cooperating with the United States, the European Union and Russia.

He did not say how much the project would cost the impoverished Central Asian nation. It was also unclear where the satellite would lift off from, as Uzbekistan has no launch pads of its own.

Uzbekistan shared in the Soviet Union's rich investment in science and education, and developed expertise in space and other technical fields despite the economic hardship of recent years.

Uzbekistan's armed forces have faced incursions from Islamic insurgents based in Afghanistan and neighboring Tajikistan over high mountain passes. It was not clear if the satellite would be used to help combat the guerrilla movement.

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