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Russia says satellites normal after cable break

By Gabriela Baczynska and Steve Gutterman

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia's space agency scrambled to refigure communications with civilian satellites and the International Space Station on Wednesday after a cable broke outside Moscow, but said the satellites and the station were operating normally.

The space agency, Roskosmos, offered assurances after state-run news agency RIA cited an unnamed source as saying Russia lost the ability to control most of its civilian satellites and send commands to its segment of the space station.

"The cable break ... is not affecting the functioning of Russian satellites and the International Space Station," Roskosmos spokesman Alexei Kuznetsov said. He said the agency was able to communicate with the satellites and control them.

Kuznetsov said a cable had broken during work by a construction company at an unspecified site northeast of Moscow.

RIA cited its source as saying the broken cable would not be repaired for at least 48 hours. It also cited a separate source saying military satellites had not been affected.

After the break, the source said, contact with facilities on the ground around Russia that communicate with civilian satellites had been lost.

"Specialists have lost the ability to control civilian satellites and issue commands to the Russian segment of the ISS," the source was quoted as saying, adding: "They see crew and can speak to them."

Kuznetsov said the cable break "did not lead to loss of control of orbital facilities, including the ISS, because reconfiguration of the operations of ground-based control facilities was conducted".

RIA cited a source as saying the problem could delay the departure of a Russian, an American and a Japanese astronaut from the station, scheduled for November 19.

Kuznetsov said the incident had not affected plans for their undocking and return to Earth from the station, a $100 billion complex funded by 15 nations that currently hosts a crew of six.

A few hours after the initial reports, RIA cited an official at the private company Akado Telecom as saying the cable break occurred in the Moscow suburb of Mytishchi - near Korolyov, where Russia's mission control center is located - but the exact location had not been pinpointed.

Russia's space program has suffered a series of humiliating setbacks since last year, marring celebrations of the 50th anniversary of the Soviet Union's triumph in putting the first man in space in 1961. Industry veterans blame the problems on a decade of crimped budgets and a brain drain.

(Additional reporting by Anastasia Teterevleva; Editing by Michael Roddy)

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