MOSCOW, February 28 (RIA Novosti) – Russia has tentatively approved a new agreement to strengthen space ties with Kazakhstan, which currently hosts Russia’s largest launch facility.
The deal is set to provide a general framework to bolster bilateral collaboration, even as Russia inches closer to completing a new domestically based space center to reduce its dependence on its former Soviet neighbor.
The prospective agreement, which will now go to Russia’s parliament for ratification, also seeks to define customs procedures for space hardware and demarcate liability and intellectual property in joint activities, Russia’s Cabinet of ministers said Friday.
Russia leases Kazakhstan’s Baikonur space center, from which it launches all of its manned space missions and its largest rocket, the Proton, for $115 million annually under a contract until 2050.
Russia is currently building its own Vostochny space center in the Far East, which is expected to begin test launches next year and become the country’s primary launch facility within the next decade.
Disagreements about the terms of Baikonur’s lease have periodically soured relations between the two countries, most recently over a $90 million cleanup bill of an explosion of a Proton rocket in July that spilled hundreds of tons of highly toxic fuel at the site.
Tensions were seemingly defused in December when Russian President Vladimir Putin announced the two countries had signed a three-year roadmap on the cooperative use of Baikonur.
But earlier this month the head of Kazakhstan’s space agency, Talgat Musabayev, said in an interview that Russia was holding up the transfer of a launch complex to the country that was provided for in the December agreement.