The upper chamber of the Kazakh parliament, the Senate, ratified on Friday a 2004 agreement to extend Russia's use of the Baikonur space center in Kazakhstan, a RIA Novosti correspondent reported.
The Russian-Kazakh agreement, which was signed in Astana on January 9, 2004, extends Russia's use of facilities at the space center until 2050. The ratification comes after threats from Russia to suspend other space projects with Kazakhstan.
"The Russia Foreign Ministry notified us two months ago that they would suspend other agreements and work on the Baiterek launch facilities [at Baikonur] because we had still not ratified the  agreement," Talgat Musabayev, the head of the Kazakh space agency, Kazcosmos, said at the opening of a Senate session.
Baikonur, built in Kazakhstan in the 1950s, is the main launch facility for the current generation of Russian rockets and was leased by Russia from Kazakhstan under an agreement signed in 1994 after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Russia pays an estimated annual fee of $115 million for the use of the space center, which currently has the world's busiest launch schedule.
In addition, Russia pays $50 million annually for the maintenance of the Baikonur facilities.
Musabayev said the ratification of the agreement would ensure the successful implementation of long-term space programs at the Baikonur center, including launches of Russian spacecraft to the International Space Station (ISS).
Baikonur has 15 launch pads for launching both manned and unmanned space vehicles. It supports several generations of Russian spacecraft: Soyuz, Proton, Tsyklon, Dnepr, Zenit and Buran.
Russia and Kazakhstan are working to build a new space launch facility at Baikonur, the Baiterek, to launch Angara carrier rockets capable of delivering 26 metric tons of payload to low-Earth orbits. The project is being implemented on a parity basis and enjoys tax and customs privileges.
The two countries have reportedly each allocated $223 million for the construction of the Baiterek launch site under a 2004 agreement.
ASTANA, April 9 (RIA Novosti)