CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida: Despite Russia’s financial woes and the rickety condition of its Space Station Mir, Russia will be kept on board as a full fledged partner in the construction of the international space station, NASA announced Thursday. Agency officials said Russia would live up to its end of the deal and launch the station's first component, a U.S.-financed service module, in June, 1998, seven months behind schedule. The move comes amid growing concerns about Russia's ability to meet the demands of the station in light of recent troubles at the Russian Space Agency, which have included spontaneous fires aboard Mir and delays in the completion of critical space station components. TIME's Dick Thompson reports that NASA's decision not to dump Russia was based on a sense of loyalty as well as political considerations: "For one, NASA has had a longstanding commitment to work with them. Secondly, there are political reasons in that the U.S. government wants to help bolster the Russian economy. Allowing them to participate in this project is one way that can happen. Finally, the Russians have more experience living and working in space than anyone else."