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'The power of the taiga... perhaps only migratory birds know where it ends'
Anton Chekhov, 1890

Inside the new Vostochny spaceport, gateway to the planets

By Olga Gertcyk
23 March 2015

Huge progress as Russia's $5 billion cosmodrome is readied for first launch.

Before long the name Vostochny will be as well-known in the world as Cape Canaveral or Baikonur. Picture: Dmitry Rogozin's Facebook

The giant new complex on the eastern fringe of Siberia will assure independence for Russia in space exploration, and before long the name Vostochny will be as well-known in the world as Cape Canaveral or Baikonur.

Recent headlines at the site of this 'national priority' in Amur region, in the Russian Far East, have concentrated on delays in construction work and the whiff of corruption which afflicts most new mega-projects.

The whip has been cracked especially by President Vladimir Putin and first deputy prime minister Dmitry Rogozin, in overall charge of the project, who, exasperated by delays, warned recently: 'I will not allow any sabotage, I'll simply rip their heads off.

'Those who try to steal the people's money from the spaceport will be locked up. We will build this cosmodrome.'

Yet as our exclusive set of pictures shows, mammoth progress has been made despite these teething problems, and the complex is taking rapidly taking shape in the taiga. 

The vast construction operation - which will take over from Soviet-era Baikonur, in Kazakhstan, as Russia main launch site - is the largest since the huge building frenzy for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi on the Black Sea coast. 

The site will eventually see launches for the Moon and Mars as part of an ambitious Russian programme for space exploration. 

Vostochny spaceport summer


Vostochny spaceport summer


Vostochny spaceport summer


Vostochny spaceport summer

The vast construction operation is the largest since the huge building frenzy for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi on the Black Sea coast. Pictures: Dmitry Rogozin, Spetsstroy, Sergey Levashov

Under construction at Vostochny are separate launch pads for Soyuz and the new long distance Angara rockets.

There are processing facilities, an airport, rail and motorway links, and a unique state of the art 'satellite city' for up to 30,000 people, which will become home to rocket scientists. 

Students from around the country - especially those studying subjects related to the space industry - have been encouraged to dedicate time to working on the construction, a throwback to Soviet times when, for example, young people worked on the ambitions Baikal Amur Mainline railway project. 

The futuristic 'space town' of Tsiolkovsky will have a  school, kindergarten, theatre and aqua park, aiming to provide comfort for scientists working on the launches. 

There will also be a research base, and an intention to open an eastern branch of the Moscow Aviation Institute. 

'Vostochny is a point of growth for the entire Russian Far East, a breath of fresh air for the Far Eastern region,' said Rogozin last year. 'Vostochny will not just provide for the space independence of Russia. The new town will accommodate space industry intellectuals.'

Students on Vostochny


Students on Vostochny


Students on Vostochny

Students from around the country - especially those studying subjects related to the space industry - have been encouraged to dedicate time to working on the construction. Pictures: Spetsstroy

In 2013 he said: 'We should open here a branch of a Russian leading university to train specialists for the national space sector, for example, a branch of the Moscow Aviation Institute.

'Here we are facing all the future of the rocket-space industry, here is the Pacific Ocean. Here Russia should demonstrate its ambitions, and we should do everything to motivate young specialists come here.'

The new space city is named after rocket designer Konstantin Tsiolkovsky. The Russian president described it as one of the 'biggest and most ambitious projects' ever undertaken.

The authorities admit that it is now touch and go whether the ambitious target of a launch of an unmanned Soyuz rocket will be met this year. 

Of some 273 facilities scheduled to be ready by 1 March, only 81 were operative, according to Russia's Centre for Ground-Based Space Infrastructure (TsENKI).

'The point of no return - the time to which all the equipment must be passed for the installation - is March 30,' stated state-owned TASS news agency.

Tsiolkovsky


Tsiolkovsky


Tsiolkovsky

The futuristic 'space town' of Tsiolkovsky will have a  school, kindergarten, theatre and aqua park, aiming to provide comfort for scientists working on the launches. Picture: Dalspetsstroy, Igor Ageenko

The former head of TsENKI, Alexander Fadeyev, warned: "It is still possible to carry out the first launch from the Vostochny cosmodrome in 2015. 

'The builders need to exert efforts. The launch equipment has already been delivered to the cosmodrome, everybody is just waiting for the completion of the construction work.'

Since 2013, Rogozin has taken a number of measures to halt delays and ensure better co-operation between the different contractors. He set up webcams to ensure there was no slouching. 

'Layabouts who barely walk about the building site should be aware that they are watched,' he warned at the time. 

Referring to the tight timings of the launch scheduled for December, Rogozin said recently 'it is possible, but one should work harder.' New specialist staff are being drafted in and action taken to deal with complaints of workers who said they were not paid on time.

Putin on Vostochny


Rogozin on Vostochny

Vladimir Putin (top) and Dmitry Medvedev (bottom) on the construction site. Pictures: Kremlin.ru, Amurskaya Pravda

Rogozin pointed to the state body responsible for building this key project. 

'I have just phoned to the head of Spetsstroy and demanded exhaustive measures to restore the construction schedule,' he said. 

There are reports of the Accounts Chamber exposing that costs of Vostochny were inflated by $180 million amid fears funds have gone walkabout. 

Rogozin warned top executives at Spetsstroy that he would hold them 'personally and financially responsible' if 'the specified terms of the construction are not executed'.

Dmitriy Savin, head of main state-run contractor Dalspetsstroy, was also sidelined. 

'Here we are facing all the future of the rocket-space industry, here is the Pacific Ocean. Here Russia should demonstrate its ambitions'. Pictures: Dalspetsstroy, Amurskaya Pravda

Vostochny


Vostochny


Vostochny


Vostochny


Vostochny


Vostochny


Vostochny



Comments (3)

Impressionnant ! La Russie a toujours été en mesure de réaliser de grandes prouesses dans tous les domaines et sur tous les plans, pour peu qu’elle le veuille, le décide et y mette le prix. Dommage que la corruption y sévit partout, notamment dans les rouages de l’Etat et de l’Administration. Dommage aussi qu’elle n’arrive toujours pas à moderniser son économie de façon radicale, pour ne plus dépendre de la rente si aléatoire, des matières premières. Dommage aussi que l’innovation y soit presque uniquement cantonnée au secteur militaire, alors que l’esprit russe si fécond en idées nouvelles et novatrices, est capable de conquérir le vaste domaines de la consommation, à la manière des japonais, des sud-coréens et des chinois.
Ridha Ben Kacem, Tunisie
29/03/2015 18:25
1
0
Also, a branch from Skolkovo should be added so research in Vostochny can translate into private business for Russian companies same as happens with Glonass.
Enrique, Spain
24/03/2015 22:17
4
0
In last decades, no scientific Russian spacecraft ever left low orbit... all failures. Remember Phobos-Grunt, other Mars probes, also a lot of Proton and upper stage failures? Technology is outdated and biggest reason is corruption and import of Chinese Counterfeit parts. But - in chinese spacecaft those parts worked. Another reason- workers in energia and Krunichev, which do not think on their work because of low payment and alcohol.
Smena Symbol, Vogograd
24/03/2015 21:11
6
13
1

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