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Russia appoints First Vice PM Shuvalov to handle the situation around Baikonur

16 december 2012, 23:31
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Russia’s First Vice PM. © RIA Novosti
Russia’s First Vice PM. © RIA Novosti
Russian First Vice Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov has been appointed Head of the Russian-Kazakh Intergovernmental Committee for Bikonur Cosmodrome, RIA Novosti reported, citing the Russian Government’s Press Service. Respective decree was signed by Russia’s Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev.

Mr. Shuvalov is tasked to define the compound of the committee on the Russian side, bringing representatives of ministries and agencies on Board.

December 10 Talgat Mussabayev, Head of KazKosmos National Space Agency, announced that Kazakhstan and Russian are working out a new agreement to gradually edge away from lease-based relations over the Baikonur cosmodrome. He also added that Baikonur town may be transferred under the Kazakhstan’s jurisdiction.
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.

The town accommodates over 70 000 people, with 37% being Russia’s citizens. About 4 000 Russia’s citizens are here almost permanently on business trips to facilitate space launches. The town budget receives over 1 billion roubles a year from the Russian federal budget.

Following Mr. Mussabayev’s remarks, Russia’s Kommersant ran an article in which a source close to the situation told that “This is a personal interpretation by Mr. Mussabayev of the essence of the negotiations (…)Mussabayev was talking to the Parliament (of Kazakhstan), he had to show his significance and prove that there was none of his fault in Kazkosmos’ existing problems (…) Such issues are to be discussed at the level of the countries' first persons, and Mussabayev is not one of them.”

Tengrinews.kz erlier reported, citing Mr. Mussabayev, that Russia and Kazakhstan are to once again launch an intergovernmental committee to handle Baikonur-related issues, with Vice PM Kairat Kelimbetov heading the Committee on the Kazakh side.

Since 1997 all the Baikonur-related issues have been handled by an ad-hoc subcommittee within the intergovernmental committee for cooperation between Kazakhstan and Russia.

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”.

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