12 January 2013, 12:15

Moscow still waits Astana's response on Baikonur spaceport use prospects

Moscow still waits Astana's response on Baikonur spaceport use prospects

Russia’s still has not received an official response from Kazakhstan to its note issued on December 13, 2012 regarding the prospects of using the Baikonur space port, a source with the national space industry told Interfax Saturday.

The Russian government sent its note in response to a statement made by the head of the Kazakh Space agency Talgat Musabayev on December 2012.

“The Russian note dated December 13, 2012 aroused numerous publications in the Kazakh media but so far there has been no information that Russia’s Foreign Ministry received an official response from Kazakhstan” the source said.

Baikonur is the Russian (former Soviet) spaceport located on the territory of Kazakhstan. 

Kazakhstan pushes for bigger role in Baikonur

Kazakhstan has vowed to bring its space cooperation with Russia to a new high. In a commentary published Thursday, Kazakh Foreign office’s spokesman Ilyas Omara said his country was eager to increase its role in the exploitation of the Baikonurlaunch facility in order to boost the potential of its space industry.

“It would be very wrong on our part to miss the opportunity of a tighter cooperation with such an esteemed space power as Russia in terms of using our own space port,” Mr. Omara said.

He stressed Kazakhstan was intent on realizing the existing space exploration potential to provide for its economic growth and expressed hope that Russia-Kazakhstan space partnership would prove fruitful for the both nations.

Voice of Russia, Interfax

The Baikonur Cosmodrome saga continues

Andrei Smirnov

Partners in earthly affairs cannot share space. Disagreements over the Baikonur Cosmodrome between Customs Union friends, Russia and Kazakhstan, have assumed an official status.

As it became known, on the eve of the New Year holidays Moscow sent a note to Astana. The Russian government demanded an explanation of the recent statements of the head of Kazcosmos, Talgat Musabayev. From Russia's point of view, his statements were “unduly harsh and outside his competence”.

Back in 2008, Talgat Musabayev advocated a review of the current legal framework, according to which Russia leases Baikonur. At that time, he declared that he would try to reduce the launches of the Russian Proton carrier rockets from Baikonur. And in December 2012, when speaking in the Parliament, the head of Kazcosmos announced new plans, which deny Russia’s rights to the Baikonur Cosmodrome. However, Kazakhstan's Foreign Ministry immediately announced that implementation of such plans would be “naive and unreasonable” and that Musabayev’s words were perverted by journalists.

Few people were impressed by the MFA’s excuses: as it was already said, it was not today that frictions began and this story has gone on for many years already. Russia once had to reconsider the agreement with Kazakhstan on the lease of Baikonur. As a result, the new agreement is set to expire in 2050, and Astana annually receives 115 million dollars from Moscow. However, periodically appearing “slight misunderstandings”, like launches suddenly postponed on account of some obscure reasons, forced the parties to set up an intergovernmental Commission on the Baikonur complex that was headed by the first Vice-Premier of the Russian government, Igor Shuvalov. It was his office that had to send the note to Astana concerning Mr. Musabaev’s statements.

The first question that arises in connection with the present situation around the cosmodrome is: What does Astana actually seek? It is clear that Kazakhstan cannot manage Baikonur all by itself, Director of the Council for National Strategy Valery Khomyakov notes:

“It is completely unreasonable for Kazakhstan to operate the Baikonur cosmodrome alone. Classy specialists are needed for this, and not only communications operators, service attendants and engineers. This is a daunting task. Kazakhstan does not have such specialists. They can only do a part of the work.”

However, Kazakhstan does not want Roscosmos to discontinue its use of the Baikonur Cosmodrome. There is another goal of all these demarches, expert of the Institute of the CIS countries Andrey Grozin believes. “Kazakhstan is interested in the development of Baikonur’s right wing - the Zenit launch pads. It wants to own them irrevocably in order to make money not only on the lease, but also on some launches together with Europeans, Ukrainians, and with Russian companies as well.”

The abovementioned project was originally planned for launches of the environmentally friendly (without heptyl) Zenit rocket carriers and the Angara rocket. With its help, Astana sought to maintain the monopoly on space transit and leave Russia on its own. However, according to the majority of experts, Kazakhstan’s behavior will lead to quite the opposite effect – it will make Moscow speed up the building of alternative spaceports. This task has already been reflected in the Russian state space program up to 2020, approved by Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev in late December. Its main tasks are the construction of the Vostochny spaceport in the Russian territory and modernization of the Plesetsk cosmodrome. As for Baikonur, experts are sure that Moscow and Astana will settle the disagreements in the near future.

Russia demands Kazakhstan explanations over remarks on Baikonur future

The Russian government sent an official note to the Kazakh government at the end of 2012 to demand explanations regarding Kazakh Space Agency (Kazcosmos) head Talgat Musabayev's remarks concerning joint Russian-Kazakh space projects in general and the future of the Baikonur space center in particular, the Russian newspaper reported on Wednesday.

"The note was drawn up by [Russian] First Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov's secretariat, because it is he who co-chairs the [Russian-Kazakh] intergovernmental commission. Now we are waiting for a reply, as the Kazcosmos head's remarks were unwarrantedly harsh and beyond his purview," a source told the newspaper.

Speaking at the Kazakh parliament on December 10, 2012, Musabayev said his country was planning to start phasing out the launches of Russian Proton-M launch vehicles from the Baikonur space center, accused Russia of failing to honor an agreement on the Baiterek space rocket project, and suggested that the two countries should revise an agreement on the lease of the Baikonur space center, the Russian newspaper said.

Musabayev said Kazakhstan and Russia were considering the conclusion of a new agreement on using Baikonur, which would actually not envision its lease. He suggested, though, that this process would be "partial and gradual."

He also informed the parliament that "the town of Baikonur could come under the Republic of Kazakhstan's jurisdiction." Both Kazcosmos and Shuvalov's secretariat declined from commenting officially on the situation.

Russia’s state space program, spanning until 2020, was approved by PM Dmitry Medvedev in the late December 2012 and envisaged unceasing maintenance of the Baikonur space port.

The program involves the whole bulk of existing Roskosmos projects and sub-projects, including Russia’s Federal Space Program for 2006-2015, the GLONASS project and a space port development plan.

Russia’s Defense Ministry, which acts as Roskosmos’s co-partner, has insisted that some of its objectives be classified. A source in the Russian space agency told reporters it wouldn’t release any data on double-purpose satellites.

Apart from Baikonur maintenance, the statewide space project will deal with the construction of the Vostochny space port, revamping of the Plesetsk launch facility, the maintenance of Russian satellites and boosting the country’s commercial space industry.

The total budget of this ambitious program has been estimated at 2.1 trillion rubles, including non-state allocations.

Voice of Russia, Interfax

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