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Blow for new cosmodrome as officials say first manned launch is still a decade away

By The Siberian Times reporter
25 August 2015

Target for cosmonauts to fly from Vostochny spaceport in 2018 is scrapped.

A 2007 presidential decree had set 2018 as this target date for manned launched and it was echoed in repeated statements from officials until recently. Picture: Igor Ageenko

Russian space officials say they remain on target for the first unmanned launch from Vostochny in December this year. But plans for manned launches to commence in 2018 have been shelved, which means Russia will depend on Baikonur in Kazakhstan for another ten years.

Vostochny, in Amur region on the eastern fringe of Siberia, is the country's iconic new spaceport. It is currently Russia's largest building project, and the seven year delay appears to be a setback. 

It follows a government decision not to adapt the new facility for the ageing Soyuz rockets for manned launches, but instead to prepare it for the new-era Angara rockets. However the new cosmodrome will use the Soyuz-2 rocket for unmanned launches. 

A 2007 presidential decree had set 2018 as this target date for manned launched and it was echoed in repeated statements from officials until recently.

Inside the new Vostochny Cosmodrome in the Far East of Russia - exclusive pictures


Inside the new Vostochny Cosmodrome in the Far East of Russia - exclusive pictures


Inside the new Vostochny Cosmodrome in the Far East of Russia - exclusive pictures


The satellites will provide Internet services to all corners of the globe. This news is a major boost to Russia's space industry, which has suffered a series of embarrassing launch failures in recent years. The first batch of 10 pilot satellites will be launched on a Soyuz rocket in late 2017.   The remaining 20 launches will occur from 2017 to 2019.


Vostochny

'The first manned flight from the Vostochny Cosmodrome is scheduled for 2025 with an Angara-AV5 rocket, according to the federal space programme.' Pictures: Igor Ageenko

It was reported that Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin and the head of the Russian Space Agency Igor Komarov managed to persuade Vladimir Putin to adjust the date of  manned launches.

The reasons were not spelled out, and it was unclear if financial considerations were behind the delay. 

Space agency spokesman Mikhail Fadeyev made clear the change of plan in stating: 'The first manned flight from the Vostochny Cosmodrome is scheduled for 2025 with an Angara-AV5 rocket, according to the federal space programme.' The move reflected the 'founding principle of Vostochny as an innovative cosmodrome', he claimed. Under the plan, the first test flight of the Angara-A5B is scheduled for 2023, while the rocket's first unmanned flight is slated for 2024.

Russian prime minister Dmitry Medvedev recently visited the spaceport, stressing the importance of the first unmanned launch, due in four months from now, being a success. His statement appeared to allow for the possibility of slippage in this timetable also.  

Inside the new Vostochny Cosmodrome in the Far East of Russia - exclusive pictures


Inside the new Vostochny Cosmodrome in the Far East of Russia - exclusive pictures


Inside the new Vostochny Cosmodrome in the Far East of Russia - exclusive pictures

'When I walked around the spaceport yesterday, I made sure that we had perfect modern engineering solutions. Not a single country in the world has a spaceport of this level or such solutions.' Pictures: Igor Ageenko

'We must do everything to make this launch successful. This is more important than deadlines. Yet no one has cancelled these deadlines. They are set by the president's order and have not been reviewed,' he said. 

Asked specifically if the December 2016 target could also be put back following his meeting a day earlier with space chiefs, he replied: 

'There are certain reference points, and Roscosmos takes guidance from these deadlines. And that was said at the conference yesterday. I would not deny that I made certain decisions there, gave certain instructions and pushed certain buttons to spur on those processes.'

He acknowledged 'certain problems exist with the construction pace and lags in certain areas' but said that Vostochny was overcoming its much-publicised delays and labour problems, with some workers claiming they were not paid. 

Dmitry Medvedev

Russian prime minister Dmitry Medvedev recently visited the spaceport, stressing the importance of the first unmanned launch, due in four months from now, being a success. Picture: The Russian Government

'On the whole, I have an impression that we are entering a final stage of the first segment of the Vostochny spaceport project. Everyone is operating in a coordinated regime which has finally been created, and construction and adjustment works are planned to end in due time. All the other problems will be resolved depending on overall performance.'

He added: 'When I walked around the spaceport yesterday, I made sure that we had perfect modern engineering solutions. Not a single country in the world has a spaceport of this level or such solutions.'

Vostochny 'really will be the most modern spaceport in the world with apt technological solutions that can fulfil civilian and a variety of other space missions.' Some 8,500 people are working at the construction site which will include a new 'space city'.

Comments (3)

Strange to see "where the money go?" questions from our American readers. Maybe money go to support the economy struggling under low oil prices and sanctions, created by US?
Natalia M, SC, USA
01/09/2015 07:03
0
0
now they have another 10 years to steal and embezzle.
Benedikt, Moscow,Russia
27/08/2015 13:07
5
3
Because Putin is such a classic "StrongMan" in the Stalinist mold, I can't help asking where has all the money gone which allowed this project to become such an unqualified mess. As a construction project this doesn't come close to rivaling accomplishments carried out in Russia's past. Tell me what Party Boss, Bureau Chief, or Program Director would be foolish enough to embezzle enough funds to jeopardize one of Putin's most visible pet projects for promoting Russia's resurgence. It seems the money must be staying at the top.
CDEVBOY, USA
27/08/2015 03:04
1
7
1

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