Tag Archives: Baikonur

Kazakhstan gets a cut rate deal from Russia

It’s who you know: Russia has sold Kazakhstan Sarah Brightman’s space tourist seat at a price more than a third less than it charges NASA.

Kazakhstan will pay a mere $20 million to send an astronaut to the International Space Station on a Russian rocket — less than half the sum reportedly asked of a British passenger to make the same trip and less than one-third of the price routinely paid by NASA for U.S. astronauts, news agency RIA Novosti reported Wednesday, citing a Kazakh space agency official.

Tourists pay somewhere around $35 million while NASA pays $75 million. Kazakhstan, however, owns Russia’s spaceport Baikonur, so they have some leverage in the negotiations. Moreover, there are hints that it won’t have to lay out any cash at all, and that the fee will simply be deducted from the $115 million annual rent that Russia pays.

Baikonur Cosmodrome to open for tourists

The competition heats up: Faced with the possibility that the Russians might eventually end their lease arrangement combined with a desire to make money, Kazakhstan is now planning to make the historic Baikonur spaceport available to tourists.

Why they haven’t done this years ago is baffling. But then, this is Russia and Kazakhstan, not the U.S.

Russia begins its withdrawal from Baikonur in Kazakhstan.

With the impending first test launch of its new Angara rocket and the construction of its new spaceport in Vostochny on-going, Russia has begun its withdrawal from Baikonur in Kazakhstan.

Zenit-M rocket launching complex will become Kazakhstan’s property on January 1, 2015, Tengrinews correspondent reported from yesterday’s government meeting in the lower chamber of the Parliament. The announcement was made by the Chairman of the National Space Agency KazCosmos Talgat Mussabayev. “We have already approved the list of facilities of Zenit-M launching site that will be excluded from the lease agreement with Russia, and have obtained the technical and administrative documents from Russia that Kazakhstan needs to operate Baiterek complex. Withdrawal of Zenit-M facilities from the Russian lease agreement and their transfer to Kazakhstan is scheduled for January 2015,” Musabayev said.

In order to ensure proper transfer of the facilities and continue their operation afterword, 49 Kazakh experts are undergoing a practical training in maintenance and operation of Zenit-M site facilities. Their training will be completed before the end of the year.

Originally financed and built as an Angara launchpad in a partnership between Russia and Kazakhstan, the Russians backed out, deciding instead to keep Angara launches entirely in Russia at Vostochny while ceasing its participation in the Ukrainian-built Zenit rocket. Moreover, when Angara goes into operation, both the story above as well as this story suggest they will then cease Proton launches at Baikonur as well.

A Kazakhstan political party is demanding the end of all launches from Baikonur.

Trouble in Russia: A Kazakhstan political party is demanding the end of all Proton launches from Baikonur.

Though I doubt this party’s radical and somewhat ignorant environmental position will gain much traction in a country where Russia’s spaceport is one of its biggest employees, its existence demonstrates why Russia is working hard to get its new spaceport in Vostochny, Russia, finished as quickly as possible.

The Proton rocket is now grounded pending an investigation into today’s launch failure.

The Proton rocket is now grounded pending an investigation into today’s launch failure.

This is no surprise. What is more significant is that the crash today will likely delay all launches out of Baikonur for at least three months.

[C]ontamination will likely suspend activities at Baikonur Cosmodrome for two or three months, Ria Novosti reported, citing an unnamed source within the Russian space industry. The launch of a robotic Progress cargo ship to the International Space Station from Baikonur, currently scheduled for July 27, will probably be delayed as a result, according to this source. The next manned launch from Baikonur is Soyuz 36, which is slated to blast off on Sept. 25 to take three new crewmembers to the International Space Station.

Some details have been released about that deal between Russia and Kazakhstan over the Baikonur spaceport.

Some details have been released about that deal between Russia and Kazakhstan over the Baikonur spaceport.

It seems the conflict does revolve around Russia’s new spaceport under construction in Vostochny, and how it might compete with Baikonur. Kazakhstan feels threatened, and is trying to forestall a loss in business.

The leaders of Russia and Kazakhstan have announced that an agreement has been reached regarding Russia’s lease for the Baikonur spaceport.

The leaders of Russia and Kazakhstan have announced that an agreement has been reached regarding Russia’s lease for the Baikonur spaceport.

No details were released but I suspect that Kazakhstan has probably backed down from some of its demands, fearful of losing the Russians when the new Russian spaceport in Vostochny opens in 2015.

The Russian foreign minister today denied that there is any friction between Kazakhstan and Russia over the use of the Baikonur spaceport.

The Russian foreign minister today denied that there is any friction between Kazakhstan and Russia over the use of the Baikonur spaceport. More here.

Despite the denial, it appears that they are in some tough negotiations which to their chagrin got leaked to the press.

Russia is now threatening to abandon its Baikonur launch site due to restrictions demanded by the Kazakhstan government.

Russia is now threatening to abandon its Baikonur launch site due to restrictions demanded by the Kazakhstan government.

The restrictions include a limitation in the number of Proton launches, which Russia claims will cost them half a million dollars in sales. The problem is that the new Russia launch site in Vostochny will not be ready until 2015. If Russia pulls out of Baikonur before then, there will be no way to launch humans to ISS for at least the next two years.

Despite the continuing lack of an agreement, Kazakhstan today gave Russia permission to resume launches from the Baikonur spaceport.

Despite the continuing lack of an agreement, Kazakhstan today gave Russia permission to resume launches from the Baikonur spaceport.

Their new as yet unfinished spaceport in Vostochny must appear increasingly important to the Russians.

Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister paid a call at that country’s under-construction Vostochny spaceport today, enthusing about its possibilities.

Kazakhstan better be worried: Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister paid a call to that country’s under-construction Vostochny spaceport today, enthusing about its possibilities.

Prediction: When Vostochny is completed in 2015, Russia will threaten to abandon its historic launch site in Baikonur. They might do it too, if Kazakhstan refuses to ease its rental terms.

Kazakhstan is blocking three upcoming Russian satellite launches from its spaceport in Baikonur because of a dispute over where rocket debris will fall.

Kazakhstan is blocking three upcoming Russian satellite launches from its spaceport in Baikonur because of a dispute over where rocket debris will fall.

I suspect that Russia is now even more enthused over completing its new spaceport in Vostochny.

In related news, a Russian analysis of the consequences of the Dragon docking at ISS. The article also notes some potential changes in the Russian space effort.

Russia is considering ending its joint commercial program with the Ukraine and Kazakhstan to launch satellites using its Dnepr rocket.

Russia is considering ending its joint commercial program with the Ukraine and Kazakhstan to launch satellites using its Dnepr rocket.

There are several reasons this decision might happen. One, the Russian government under Putin might now be shifting away from capitalism after two decades of financial success. And if so, that will be to the United States’ advantage. Two, they might have decided that the Dnepr system can’t compete on the market, and it is wiser not to throw good money after bad.

Either way, the abandonment of Dnepr will be bad for Kazakhstan and the Ukraine, and suggests that when the Russians finally get their Vostochny spaceport operational, on their own soil, they will abandon Baikonur in Kazakhstan forever.

The space police of Baikonur

The space police of Baikonur.

I find this quote interesting:

When the status of the city was designated [after the fall of the Soviet Union], the leased Baikonur was monitored by two Interior Ministries, two prosecutors’ offices and two state security organs. But social problems have not disappeared. Engineers and astronauts are not the only ones who live in the city. Baikonur hosts a great deal of people who have local residence papers, including the indigenous Kazakhs. They cannot work on Baikonur objects because mostly Russians are hired to work there. If the Kazakhs are lucky enough to be hired, they are paid far less than the Russians.

In June of this year mass uprisings occurred in Baikonur. A crowd of youths pelted a police patrol car with stones and bottles.