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Russia to overhaul Gagarin launching pad at Kazakhstan’s Baikonur in 2014

17 july 2012, 16:10
0
Rocket launch from Baikonur cosmodrome. ©RIA Novosti
Rocket launch from Baikonur cosmodrome. ©RIA Novosti
Russia’s National Space Agency Roskosmos plans to overhaul the giant launching pad # 1 at Baikonur, RIA Novosti reports, citing the Agency Head Vladimir Popovkin.

This launching pad named to honor Yury Gagrin, the first ever cosmonaut, was the launching pad from where the first manned vehicle Vostok was launched April 12, 1961. Currently the launching pad is used to launch Soyuz TMA vehicles to the ISS as well as cargo vehicles Progress.

“According to the plan, the overhaul of the launching pad will start in 2014 as we plan to shift all launches to Soyuz-2.1 carrier rockets. We are tired of using the current Soyuz-FG and Soyuz-U carrier rockets. We are working to get the modernized Soyuz-2.1a rocket carrier certified to assist manned ships”, Mr. Popovkin said.

“At first we will launch a couple of cargo Progress vehicles using the Soyuz-2.1a carrier rockets, followed by a manned vehicle”, he said.

He also told that the planned launch of a manned vehicle [in October] will be carried out from the 31st launching pad rather than from the launching pad #1.

Mid-April Tengrinews.kz reported, citing Russia’s RosCosmos Space Agency Vice Head Aleksandr Lopatin as saying for Russia’s Kommersant.ru, that “Cosmodrome Baikonur has been overstretched for the recent years”.

“Russia is responsible for 40% of all space launches in the world, with a lion’s share of the launches performed from Baikonur. The cosmodrome has been overstretched. We have to look for times to maintain the facility and get it properly ready for launches”, Mr. Lopatin said.

“Baikonur is rented from Kazakhstan. It is a unique facility enabling to accomplish the whole range of tasks. However friendly Kazakhstan may be, the facility is a rented one. It is a political issue. I don’t mean that Kazakhstan may abruptly “cut off the oxygen” for Russia (…) All leading space powers of the world do have cosmodromes of their own. Vostochnyi cosmodrome based in Russia to some extent will be duplicating functions of Baikonur in terms of sending payloads to all types of orbits … Vostochnyi cosmodrome will be capable of supporting all the Russia’s federal space projects, including defense projects”.

Baikonur is the first and largest cosmodrome in the world. Located in Kazakhstan, it is rented out to Russia till 2050.

Baikonur is closer to the Equator than other launch sites – a situation that facilitates geostationary orbit or orbits less inclined to reach the International Space Station (ISS). This privileged geographic placement enables the launch of more significant payloads.

The cosmodrome has been rented out since 1994. Annual rent stands at $115 million. $100 million is transferred annually to maintain the infrastructure.

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