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A spy satellite for peace

Swedish Foreign Affairs Minister Sten Andersson announced earlier this month that two studies had shown that a reconnaissance satellite to verify arms control agreements could be built and managed by Sweden. The orbiter, which could be launched as soon as 1995 if the go-ahead is given next year, would be able to ``see'' objects of between ``one and a few meters,'' according to a report summary. A one-meter resolution would allow the satellite to positively identify nuclear weapons components, as well as types of aircraft and missile sites. A radar sensor might also be added, so that the craft could see through clouds.

Sweden will contact other countries this winter to see if they want to share in the project, said Jan Amberg, first secretary of the foreign ministry.

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The reconnaissance satellite would cost about $390 million to build and $12 million a year to maintain. Only the United States, the Soviet Union, and perhaps China have spy satellites capable of one-meter resolution. France intends to loft a military version of its SPOT satellite with a one-meter resolution in 1992.

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