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Kazakhstan's plans to transition to ecologically safe rockets disrupted 31 мая 2015, 03:02

Kazakhstan is experiencing disruptions in the transition from Proton carrier rocket to more environmentally friendly Angara booster.
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Photo courtesy of picc.it Photo courtesy of picc.it

Kazakhstan has suspended the project to build a rocket launching complex that would allow saying “no” to environmentally dangerous Proton rocket, Tengrinews reports. The project Baiterek was a joint venture of Kazakhstan and Russia, which has now been suspected for an unspecified period of time.

As the acting head of the Aerospace Committee of the Ministry of Investment and Development of Kazakhstan Meirbek Moldabekov said that the agreement between the governments of Kazakhstan and Russia on creation of Baiterek space rocket launching complex at the Baikonur cosmodrome had been concluded back in 2004. It provided for creation of a new environmentally safe space rocket complex at where Russian booster Angara would replace the existing Proton carrier rocket.

To implement the project, a joint venture was created. It received a budget loan of $223 million from Kazakhstan for a period of 19 years with a five-year grace period on repayment of the principal and the interest.

"Under the agreement, the Russian side was to provide test launches on Angara booster at its Plesetsk cosmodrome. These tests were successfully carried out only in 2014, because of this the project was delayed. Baiterek complex has not been created yet, but the period of repayment of the loan has already arrived," Moldabekov said at a meeting of the Senate Committee on International Relations, Defense and Security.

He presented a bill to the deputies, which concerns ratification of the protocol amending the aforesaid agreement. This document provides for an extension of the grace period for repayment of the principal and interest on the budget loan until 2019. According to the speaker this would allow the joint venture Baiterek to continue the implementation of the project and maintain the accumulated basic design and human resources.

"This project has a very important political, technological, socio-economic and environmental value. The environmental importance of this project lies in the fact that all payloads, all satellites which are now launched from Baikonur with Proton carrier rockets could be put into the orbit from Baiterek launching complex. This would enable us to stop the use of Proton booster and solve the environmental problem of Baikonur cosmodrome. Proton carrier rocket uses environmentally hazardous fuel components. It is a big problem for Kazakhstan," he said.

He told the Kazakh senators that the Russian Space Agency did not exercise due diligence in creation of the complex. In addition, the lack of interest to Baiterek on Russia's side was not due to economic reasons, but had political motives.

"Russia, as a sovereign state, has decided - I would say in contempt of its economic interests - to build a new cosmodrome Vostochny. This was done for political reasons. They stated that they wanted to have independent access to space and leasing Baikonur cosmodrome all the time created problems. They have to coordinate the time of flight and landings (with Kazakhstan). They apparently did not like that. But if we look from the economic point of view, the construction of the cosmodrome Vostochny is much less effective economically than continuing to use Baikonur cosmodrome," he said.

At the same time, he noted that the new leadership of the Russian Space Agency, unlike the previous one, was "thinking differently" and had raised the question of returning to Baiterek project.

"The implementation of the project using Angara booster will depend on the position of the Russian side," Moldabekov said describing the status of the project.

Deputies then pointed out that the feasibility study and design and estimate documentation of the project had already cost $82 million. "So that money has been wasted?" they asked.

“There are no costs being incurred at the moment. That which has been spent is gone. Now we need to save the enterprise and complete the project," Moldabekov said.

The senators then asked: "Will the design and estimate documentation be obsolete?"

"If the first option will be supported as a result of the negotiations, it will not," he answered. But if Kazakhstan has difficulties with Angara booster, then the country will resort to Plan B, he reserved.

Reporting by Renat Tashkinbayev, writing by Dinara Urazova, editing by Tatyana Kuzmina

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