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Space Science

Kazakhstan Wants Russia To Hand Over Their Baikonur Space City 131

Hugh Pickens writes writes "RIA Novosti reports that Kazakhstan and Russia are in talks over returning the city of Baikonur to Kazakhstan — the site of the first Soviet rocket launches and Russia's most important space launch center. Baikonur, built in Kazakhstan in the 1950s, is the main launch facility for the current generation of Russian rockets and was leased by Russia from Kazakhstan under an agreement signed in 1994 after the collapse of the Soviet Union. 'Today both nations' governments have decided to set up a new intergovernmental commission for the Baikonur complex to be headed up by first or other deputy prime ministers,' said Talgat Musabayev, head of Kazakhstan's space agency. At issue is control over Baikonur and the rent Russia pays Kazakhstan to use the facility, a subject of ongoing dispute between the two nations ever since Kazakhstan gained independence from the USSR. Earlier this year, Kazakhstan blocked Russia from launching several rockets from Baikonur in a dispute over a drop zone for debris and Kazakhstan insisted this must be covered by a supplement to the main rental agreement signed in Astana in 2004, extending Russia's use of the space center's facilities until 2050. Russia pays an annual fee of approximately $115 million to use the space center, which currently has the world's busiest launch schedule, as well as $50 million annually for maintenance. Russia and Kazakhstan are working to build a new space launch facility at Baikonur, called Baiterek, to launch Angara carrier rockets capable of delivering 26 metric tons of payload to low-Earth orbits but Russia intends to eventually withdraw from Baikonur and conduct launches from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome, an operating spaceport about 500 miles north of Moscow — and the unfinished Vostochny Cosmodrome in the Russian Far East."
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Kazakhstan Wants Russia To Hand Over Their Baikonur Space City

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  • by hey! (33014) on Tuesday December 11, 2012 @10:01AM (#42249994) Homepage Journal

    Especially because giving up Baikonur would force Russia to launch from higher latitudes, reducing their payload to orbit capacity for certain orbits.

    I'm picturing a crusty old political geographer sitting up in one of his wingback chair and saying, a quavering voice, "Russia wants a warm water space port."

  • Re:Too far north. (Score:4, Informative)

    by bmo (77928) on Tuesday December 11, 2012 @10:13AM (#42250058)

    No, you can launch polar orbiting sats from nearly anywhere, it's where the bits fall that may be a problem.

    The US launches polar orbiting sats from Vandenberg, because a launch failure or simply a spent booster means that it goes down in the Pacific instead of somewhere on the continental US or Canada (because the Earth rotates under it).

    Polar sats are a small percentage of launches.


  • Re:Why? (Score:3, Informative)

    by lbmouse (473316) on Tuesday December 11, 2012 @10:27AM (#42250188) Homepage

    Must now obtain "WWSD" wrist band.

  • Re:Too far north. (Score:5, Informative)

    by Teancum (67324) <robert_horning@netz e r> on Tuesday December 11, 2012 @10:46AM (#42250359) Homepage Journal

    While not nearly as useful as Geosynchronous orbits or other near equatorial orbits, Molniya orbits [] and related Tundra orbits [] are incredibly useful, especially for countries like Russia that has most of its territory in high latitude locations. The kind of vehicles that you would put into those orbits don't need to be launched from Florida and in fact are better launched from places in Russia as well.

    My point is that there are things besides polar orbits or geosynchronous orbits to consider when building a spaceport or trying to identify why that location might be useful.

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