Russia's space programme on course
Russia is preparing for the next stage of space exploration, and for the implementation of an ambitious programme to build a number of new generation space ships, as well as to upgrade the country’s cosmodromes. It is planned that by 2020, 90 per cent of all the Russian space launchings will be on the country’s territory.
The Baikonur cosmodrome, constructed during the Soviet era has remained the major launching pad for Russia, but in 1991, Kazakhstan on whose territory the Baikonur is located became an independent state. Every year, Russia pays 165 million dollars in rent to Astana for the use and maintenance of the cosmodrome, says Alexander Alexandrov, a pilot and cosmonaut, twice Hero of the USSR and an adviser to the Russian President on scientific matters.
“It is extremely important for Russia to have its own cosmodrome, and most importantly, to stop renting the one in Kazakhstan. That location is too far for moving equipment and it costs too much to maintain the infrastructures there. A large number of people must be present there all the time, to ensure a smooth functioning between the launching mechanisms, as well as to maintain the equipment and the buildings”, said Alexander Alexandrov.
Russia is construction a new cosmodrome, called “Vostochny” in the Amur region. It will consists of two launch pads, a center for making preparations, a cosmonaut monitoring device and hydrogen and oxygen plants. In all, there will be 15 thousand high-tech facilities in the new cosmodrome. The commissioning of the first launch pad and the launching of the first unmanned ships are planned for 2015 . According to preliminary estimatess, about half of the Russian space ships are to be launched from the “Vostochny” cosmodrome by 2020.
By that time, a manned shuttle space ship- the “Rus” is to replace the old Soyuz. The Rus is designed to fly back to earth and be in near earth orbit. The project concept was presented at the aero-space show, MAKS-2011 by the “Energia”design bureau, the leading Russian rocket and space enterprise. There will be 6 crew members onboard the new generation ship, and not 3 as in the Soyuz ships. They can take along about 500 kilogramme of cargo, says Igor Lisov, a commentator at the “Space News” magazine.
A new rocket requires a new launch pad, and constructing it in Kazakhstan is inexpedient. Hence a site on the territory of Russia was picked”, said Igor Lisov.
A town with a population of 35 thousand is to spring up near the “Vostochny” cosmodrome, and the architects have taken into consideration that local and foreign tourists will be visiting the area and hence Vostochny is designed like a space land, and as the country’s major cosmodrome. Russia’s second cosmodrome, the “Plesetsk”will be responsible for 40 per cent of the launchings, while Baikonur will now have about 10 per cent. It is possible that Baikonur will be turned into a Joint Stock Company.