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Baikonur to give up Proton boosters only in 2025

04 december 2013, 13:14
0
©Tengrinews.kz
©Tengrinews.kz
Proton carrier rockets using highly toxic fuel will continue to be launched from Baikonur Cosmodrome until 2025, Tengrinews reports referring to Deputy Chairman of KazCosmos National Space Agency of Kazakhstan Meirbek Moldabekov.

"We suppose that Proton carrier rockets will continue to be launched until 2025," Moldabekov said, replying to the journalists during a briefing at the Central Communications Services headquarters.

He said that Kazakhstan was planning to run the modernization of Zenit rocket complex by the year 2018. And according to Kazcosmos these rockets are ecologically friendly.

"We will be able to complete the upgrade for Zenit only by 2018. This will make the booster eligible replacing Protons altogether, but it doesn't mean that the Proton program will be closed right away in 2018. The number of Proton launches will be reduced gradually, because Zenit should 'learn to fly' and gear up stage after stage. As the number of Zenit launches grows, the number of Protons will be reduced," Meirbek Moldabekov said.

Moldabekov also explained why Proton was still in use at the cosmodrome. "Launches of communication satellites are the main source of income (...), but those communication satellites are heavy, and they can be taken to the orbits only by Proton carrier rockets, the other carrier rockets are unable to lift them," the Deputy Chairman said.

He reminded that an intergovernmental agreement was signed between Kazakhstan and Russian in 2004 to reduce the number of Proton-M launches. However according to the Deputy Chairman of Kazcosmos, Kazakhstan was unable to put through a clear cut solution for this problem.

"Proton spacecraft is the main 'hardy beast' at Baikonur Сosmodrome. Closing the Proton program now would render the cosmodrome useless. It will cause a big problem for the Kazakh-Russian relationships. And it would deal a blow to the Russian space industry and to ours as well, because we are cooperating with the Russians. That is why this way of solving the issues is not acceptable, and both countries will hardly agree to it. But there is another acceptable way out of the situation -- to gradually create an alternative carrier rocket that will be able to makes all these launches," he said.

According to Meirbek Moldabekov , Zenit is the very rocket carrier that can use the purpose. "Zenit is a latest design of the Soviet Union; the rocket is ecologically friendly and modern. It has been launched from Baikonur cosmodrome since 1985," he pointed out.

He also reminded that following KazCosmos' initiatives Presidents of Russia and Kazakhstan came to an agreement that Baiterek project, that was initially set to be carried out on the basis of Angara carrier rocket, will be developed on the basis of Zenit carrier rocket. "Angara rocket hasn’t ever been launched yet, and it is unclear when such launch will be made," he said.

Kazakhstan is going to drive Zenit complex out of the lease and agreement with Russia and start using it on its own by the end of 2014.

"Somewhere around 2018 we could start a modernization of the booster to increase its carrying capacity to subsequently use it instead of Proton," he said.

"Our chairman says true, that we are still watching the running of the Baikonur cosmodrome from behind the fence, it means we aren't really participating in the technical processes. Sure, we are already a shareholder of Kosmotras International Space Company that is making the commercial launches using PC-20 intercontinental ballistic rocket that is now known as Dnepr carrier rocket. But our participation is limited to this for the time being," Meirbek Moldabekov said.


By Renat Tashkinbayev

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