Russia: May 10, 2001

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Neglect and poor maintenance led to a fire at Russia's satellite control center outside Moscow. As a result, Russia lost contact with four military satellites. Russia has few military satellites left in service. It's last recon satellite went out of service last week. Lack of money have eroded Russia's satellite program through the 1990s. During the heyday of Russian military satellites (the 1970s and 80s), there some 30 launches a year. But last year there were only three and only one in 1999. Russian satellites don't last as long as American ones, and must be replaced more frequently. Russia still uses the film cartridge method, with the satellite ejecting one of 20 cartridges  containing film to be developed on earth. For decades, the US has been using digital cameras, with images broadcast back to earth. Only a few of the Russian recon birds can do this.