In the deal NASA gains Russia's research time during the first four to five years of the space station's construction, the rights to store experiments onboard a Russian-built module and the help of Russian cosmonauts with any experiments. The deal is worth potentially an additional 5000 hours of cosmonaut time to US researchers. The US and Russia had already agreed that 10000 of the 30000 hours astronauts will spend constructing the space station in orbit would be scheduled for research.

The funds are to be used to finish the stations crew compartment module, which is already a year behind schedule. Without the module the $60 bn project is likely to be delayed another six months. The first components of the space station are due to be launched on a Russian Proton Rocket next month.

But NASA is already coming under criticism in the US for proposing to buy $600 m of equipment from Russia in an attempt to generate some financial stability at the Russian Space Agency. Dan Goldin, NASA's administrator, told Congress yesterday that the International Space Station should be scrapped if it cannot be properly funded – either by the US or Russia.

To protect the project from any other further economic difficulties, NASA is expected to request another $560 m to construct a station propulsion module which they believe will reduce reliance on some of the Russian modules. If Congress does not agree to the increase, then NASA has to find the money from its existing budget. Space science programmes are likely to take the brunt of any cuts announced in such a move.