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Concern growing that first launch from new cosmodrome will be delayed until 2016

By Derek Lambie
17 March 2015

Deputy Prime Minister set for another visit to spaceport as he warns situation at Vostochny is 'critical' with project dogged by delays and corruption.

Experts say the overall situation at Vostochny, close to the town of Uglegorsk in the Amur region, is nearing the 'point of no return'. Picture: Dmitry Rogozin

Dmitry Rogozin makes another inspection of the new cosmodrome amid growing fears the first launch from the multi-billion-rouble spaceport is in jeopardy. The Deputy Prime Minister visited the Vostochny complex, in the Russian Far East, just two weeks ago to address concerns over the pace of construction.

Now he returned once more to see how work has progressed and ensure his orders for doubling the workforce, using a cash injection of 32 billion roubles ($51.3million), were carried out.

It comes amid mounting speculation that progress is now running so much behind schedule that the first highly-anticipated launch may not take place this year at all. Equipment to handle the mission has been delivered to the complex but its installation cannot take place because the infrastructure is not ready.

Dmitry Rogozin

The Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said the project is reaching a 'critical moment'. Picture: Amurskaya Pravda

Any postponement would be a huge embarrassment for Vladimir Putin, with Vostochny being viewed as the jewel in the crown of the future of Russian space missions. The project is also engulfed in claims of financial corruption, with Russia's Accounts Chamber uncovering the construction costs have been overstated by $180million.

Experts say the overall situation at Vostochny, close to the town of Uglegorsk in the Amur region, is nearing the 'point of no return'.

Alexander Fadeyev, the former head of the Centre for Ground-Based Space Infrastructure Facilities Operation (TsENKI), said: 'It is yet 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, but everybody is just waiting for the completion of the construction work.'

Representatives at TsENKI have warned that if the deadline for the handover of the site for the installation of equipment is not met then the project will reach the 'point of no return' and the Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) will not be able to guarantee the first launch.

When finished, the cosmodrome will provide Russia with a civillian launch pad on her own soil, with current space missions taking place over the border at Baikonur in Kazakhstan at a yearly rent of about $115million to Moscow.

Vostochny cosmodrome


Vostochny cosmodrome


Vostochny cosmodrome

Equipment to handle the mission has been delivered to the complex but its installation cannot take place because the infrastructure is not ready. Pictures: Dmitry Rogozin

The sprawling 551 sq km complex, close to the Chinese border, will employ up to 25,000 people, with the first launch – for the Soyuz-2 carrier rocket – pencilled in for December. Architects say the new community will be a 'one-of-its-kinds scientific and tourist space town with a unique design and beautiful landscape'.

But it has been marred by delays and of the 273 facilities that had to be ready for March 1, only 81 were operational.

The Deputy Prime Minister plans to inspect all of the 12 facilities necessary for the launch as well as hold talks about the progress of the construction. It is likely that the Deputy Prosecutor General will come with him to the site.

Mr Rogozin said the project is reaching a 'critical moment' and warned that Spetsstroi, the company contracted with building the cosmodrome, would be held fully responsible if it misses the November 30 completion date.

He added: 'I plan to consider and to enter the personal and financial responsibility of the representatives of Spetsstroi Russia, if the specified terms of construction are not executed. I won't take any other decisions until we inspect the spaceport again in April.'

Meanwhile, Russia's Accounts Chamber has revealed that estimated costs of the project have been overstated by as much as $180million. Several alleged corruption scandals have erupted at the site, and one local energy company has threatened possible power cuts over unpaid electricity bills.

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