Kazcosmos chief Talgat MUSABAEV:
BAIKONUR IS STILL THE CORE OF KAZAKH-RUSSIAN COOPERATION IN SPACE
world's biggest space launch-site, Baikonur, once again found itself on
the verge of dramatic changes when it entered the sixth decade of its
remarkable history. Russia pursuing its own quite reasonable interests
has made a public statement on building Vostochny, a new cosmodrome in
Amur oblast from scratch. The first cargo ship is slated for launch from
Vostochny in 2016, while a piloted spacecraft is planned to take off in
2018. Astana was obviously at a loss when presented with the news: it's
clear that Russia will not leave Baikonur soon, but such outcome is still
The chair of the National Space Agency (Kazcosmos)
Talgat Musabaev, a Kazakh test pilot and former cosmonaut, who
flew on a few long-time space missions and worked as MIR and ISS crew
member, told Interfax-Kazakhstan about the current relations between the
traditional partners: Russia and Kazakhstan and new Kazakh projects in
- Russia is building a new spaceport Vostochny, which,
in fact, is named a direct "rival" of Baikonur. Was it a surprise
for Kazakhstan and you, personally?
- The rumors about such option have been circulating
long ago. However, the intention of the Russian government to construct
an entire space launching center with a full-scale infrastructure, "an
entire city," as Russian Vice Prime Minister Igor Ivanov said, rather
than isolated launching facilities was a surprise for us. In light of
Russia's decision on construction and launching the Vostochny spaceport,
the number of space launches from Baikonur may decrease starting from
2016. In 2018 manned space vehicles are likely to start traveling from
Vostochny, and in our opinion, that means the end of the Russian manned
flights from Baikonur. We should be ready for such development.
- How big are the chances of Russia's leaving Baikonur
- Presidents of our countries signed a lease agreement
for Baikonur until 2050, so we hope that until that time Russia will not
be leaving Baikonur. Kazakhstan has yet to receive an official announcement
regarding Russian plans for further use of the Baikonur launch-site, in
the wake of launching Vostochny spaceport in Amur region. Russia's plans
for reducing its activities at the Baikonur cosmodrome have not been on
the agenda of the talks with Kazcosmos, and have never been mentioned
Naturally, under these circumstances we are planning
to address Roscosmos with a question -- if it has plans to reduce its
presence at Baikonur or mulls to warp up its operations there completely.
In accordance with the Russia's plans for Baikonur,
we could draft our own program on using Baikonur facilities. We have a
few options in store, but we can't reveal our plans now, as we are unaware
of what Russia, our key partner, thinks of the issue.
- There is a god chance that the issue could remain
"suspended" for a long time. Will Kazcosmos make any preventive
- No. Being unaware of Russia's official plans, we can't
do nothing else, but make assumptions. Therefore, we are not going to
make any hasty decisions or ill-considered actions. Russia and Kazakhstan
keep working in a close cooperation at Baikonur, as it was always the
Roscosmos official representatives Alexander Vorobyev
told Interfax-AFN that Russia is determined to continue launching space
rockets from Baikonur, Kazakhstan, and use all launching pads until the
end of the lease. He also mentioned that the frequency of flights from
Baikonur will be increasing.
Head of the Russian Federal Space Agency Anatoly
Perminov said earlier that first Progress cargo space ship to be lunched
from Vostochny in 2015.
Russian President Vladimir Putin assured the public
earlier that Russia is determined to continue launching space rockets
from Baikonur, Kazakhstan, as well as develop space centers on its own
territory. A decision to build a spaceport in the Amur region was made
on coordination with experts, Putin said.
Russia has been leasing Baikonur since 1994 from
Kazakhstan. In January 2004, Russia and Kazakhstan signed an agreement
extending the lease deal until 2050 without altering the annual rent of
$115 million. Currently Russia launches all piloted spacecraft from Baikonur,
- How the uncertainty about the use of Baikonur may
affect joint space projects with Russia?
- I would not consider the issue from such perspective.
On the contrary, I can assure you that Kazakhstan and Russia are on the
verge of a new strategic stage of space partnership. Kazakhstan and Russian
in the first half of this year might sign an intergovernmental agreement
on cooperation in space exploration and peaceful use of space.
This would be a framework agreement that will allow
the parties to expand their cooperation in the space industry. Thus, this
document will facilitate signing of other agreements, in particular, the
one on Kazakhstan's participation in Russian orbital space navigation
Musabaev also said that the sides have failed to reach
a common ground on the only issue in the agreement regarding the customs
clearing. However, in the near future that predicament would be resolved.
- A prospect of Kazakhstan's joining GLONASS (Russian
orbital space navigation system) is being under discussion for the fourth
year in a row. However, no final decision has been voiced yet on the date
of republic's entering the project or terms of Kazakhstan's participation.
- The agreement on Kazakhstan's participation in GLONASS
project could be signed only after Kazakhstan and Russia agree on the
bilateral peaceful use of space - such is a legal procedure. GLONASS draft
agreement has been already made and approved by the respective regulators
on each side. All that we need to do now is to wait for the day "X".
We expect it to happen by June this year.
Kazakhstan plans to take an active part in building
up Russia's Global Satellite Navigation System (GLONASS), offers its territory
for GLONASS ground infrastructure and suggests that a Kazakh satellite
be incorporated into the system.
The possibility of using existing Kazakh space systems,
including [Kazakh satellite] KazSat, has been analyzed theoretically and
will soon be worked through in practical terms. The satellite 'is suspended'
on a geostationary orbit over the territory of the republic, which, putting
it in simple terms, makes it a retransmitter of signals from the ground-based
monitoring system. Consequently, KazSat may become GLONASS' 25th satellite.
By the way, our participation in GLONASS project would
not be limited by that. Other KazSat-class satellites that Kazakhstan
plans to launch would be interacting with GLONASS as well.
GLONASS is a dual-purpose system, which provides services
to the Russian Defense Ministry and civilian users. It offers positioning
and timing services for an unlimited number of sea, air, space, ground
and other mobile users.
The GLONASS constellation is expected to include a total
of 24 satellites, a control subsystem and navigation equipment for users.
The satellite launched in December 2004 is to undergo
maintenance this time. Presently, of the 16 satellites in orbit, only
14 Glonass and Glonass-M are fully operational. The last of the three
satellites launched into space in December 2007 is prepared for commissioning,
which was developed and produced by the Zheleznogorsk applied mechanics
research and production association.
KazSat was launched on June 18, 2006 from Baikonur,
which marked the beginning of Kazakhstan's program of independent space
projects. Kazakhstan has put $65 million in the project to make its own
Kazakhstan announced plans to have five satellites on
the orbit by 2021. Kazakhstan's second telecommunications satellite KazSat-2
could be launched in 2009, KazSat-3 - in 2013, KazSat-4 - in 2016 and
KazSat-5 in 2020.
- In 2006 Kazakhstan held tenders for designing two
Land Remote Sensing Satellites (Landsats), however, the bidding results
were cancelled afterwards. Does it mean that Kazcosmos abandoned these
- On the contrary, Kazakhstan is totally interested
in putting this project into practice as soon as possible. Today, Kazcosmos
is taking prompt actions to speed up a program of Landsat system. A tender
will be held soon to create two optical electronic satellites of high
and medium resolution. The winning bidder can be known by May this year.
We may say that international leading companies will
be involved in the creation of the satellites; however, a Russian company
that has a relevant experience in this area is likely to act as an integrator.
Landsat specifications and feasibility studies are ready. Russian experts
led by space system veteran Doctor of Engineering Oleg Grafodatskiy have
prepared sophisticated specifications.
If everything goes as planned, Landsat might be launched
in 2011. From that time on we would be able to receive precise shots with
almost one-meter resolution for state management of agriculture, energy
and mineral resources, emergency situations and others.
Aerospace Committee of the Ministry of Education and
Science did invited bids for two Landsats in 2006. The Russian Research
Institute of Space Instrumentation (RNIIKP) was chosen as a preferred
bidder. However, its engineering solutions failed to meet Kazakhstan's
demands. Therefore, the specifications had to be revised. Moreover, the
negotiations between RNIIKP and Kazakhstan Garysh Sapary (a subordinate
company of Kazcosmos) dragged out, and in compliance with the laws the
tender and its results were nullified.
- Russian specialists and journalists are inclined
to see the annual procedure of coordinating plans for Russian launches
from Baikonur as a "tool" used by the republic to promote its
own interests in space. That was exactly how many interpreted Kazakhstan's
decision to approve Proton launches for the first half of the year only.
Many believed that this step was made in order to make Roskosmos curtail
Proton launches. How close are those statements to the truth?
- The principal position of both the government and
the parliament on this issue has not changed: we favor a gradual reduction
in the number of launches. We understand that Proton is Russia's most
productive launch vehicle, and it is perhaps the best in the world in
its class. Unfortunately, it operates on a highly toxic propellant. Its
use at Baikonur makes the issue of environment protection increasingly
more acute and raises concerns with the public and the parliament. Therefore,
the use of Protons at our space center is becoming more and more problematic,
of which Russian side is fully aware.
The Kazakh government agreed to endorse a plan for Proton
rocket launches from the Russian Baikonur space center located in Kazakhstan
in the second half of 2008, once the Russian Space Agency (Roscosmos)
offers proposals on gradual reduction of the launches of rockets using
unsymmetrical dimethylhydrazine (UDMH) as a propellant.
Russia and Kazakhstan signed an intergovernmental agreement
in 2004, one of the provisions of which implies a gradual reduction in
the number of launches of rockets using the highly-toxic propellant from
Baikonur. However, Roscosmos has made no steps in this direction so far.
Therefore, the government had to agree to the plan of Proton launches
only for the first half of 2008. The authorization of launches in the
second half of the year will depend on Russia's position on this issue.
- As far as we know, Roscosmos pledged to hand over
its proposal on stage-by-stage restriction on lunching rocket boosters
of all types from Baikonur running on heptyl: Protons, Tsiklons and ocean-spanning
ballistic missiles ÐÑ-18 and ÐÑ-20…
- We have yet to receive proposals pledged by Roscosmos
on the gradual reduction in launches of vehicles using UDMH from Baikonur.
Kazakhstan expects at least some reduction in the number of launches.
- In 2005 Russia offered Kazakhstan to take part
in equipping a multi-target lab module, FGB-2, for the International Space
Station (ISS.) The launch of the module was slated for 2007. However,
no definite steps have followed on part of Kazakhstan. Why?
- Kazakhstan sees no good reason to continue its participation
in the Russian project of multi-target lab module, FGB-2. A couple of
years ago, we believed that we could have become part of the project,
if we contributed to financing and design of equipment. However, we understood
that it was unlikely for us to get a direct access to our equipment. Kazakhstani
astronauts would not be able to take advantage of this equipment due to
a vague prospect of their flights to ISS.
It's unreal to expect any return after injecting funds
into the Russian module. Moreover, regarding our plans to design our own
scientific satellite, we could find a better use for our equipment and
have a direct access to its data.
- What are the other possible space projects where
Russian and Kazakh interest could intertwine?
- One of them is the International Space Observatory.
The project entails design of a space apparatus that will be launched
to a distance of 1.5 ml km to operate in the ultraviolet diapason. 16
countries are participating in the project including Russia.
Kazakhstan may contribute not just funds to the project,
but researchers as well.
Such project won't give the republic an immediate profit,
however, the data from the observatory would give an impetus to our science
and domestic space studies.
We reckon the republic could sign the agreement on entering
the project in 2009.
- Last year immediately after Kazcosmos was founded,
it embarked on an extensive inventory campaign of the Baikonur assets.
Why did the problem that has not been tackled by anyone before, became
one of the priorities for the newly formed agency?
- Baikonur is a property of Kazakhstan, a unique infrastructure
facility leased by Russia until 2050. The spaceport has almost 3,000 buildings
and structures and over 20,000 infrastructure systems and devices. The
irony is that none of these facilities has been reported in our balance
sheet and nobody knows their approximate value.
We found such state of affairs unacceptable and set
the target to assess the value of all assets Kazakhstan owns at Baikonur.
With this in view, a complete inventory of the spaceport was taken last
year, though with some difficulty. Data is being processed right now;
therefore we cannot give the exact value of the key facilities of Baikonur.
Inventory results would be summed up and reviewed this year.
- What steps could follow?
- National Space Agency of Kazakhstan (Kazcosmos) will
address the government with an offer to transfer Baikonur facilities to
a Kazcosmos subordinate company once their stock-taking and appraising
I want to emphasize that we mean here the facilities
in operations. Baikonur, however, have a number of abandoned sites. Russia
(represented by Roscosmos and Russian Defense Ministry) being a renter
of the spaceport can pick out Baikonur facilities it needs to operate
at its own discretion. State-owned company Infracos, a part of Kazcosmos,
is now dealing with the inventory and possible use of those abandoned
facilities, which are about 600 at Baikonur. Infracos is aimed to find
and gain at least some profit from them for the budget.
- Kazakhstan's Prime Minister Karim Masimov announced
a full support to a fledgling Kazcosmos. What does the pledged support
entail other than financing of the ongoing space programs?
- We hope for a significant increase in the personnel,
the president has already signed the respective decree. Until now we have
to deal with extremely tough conditions of scanty office areas and a shortage
of personnel. Those factors are impeding the targets we set for ourselves.
- The committee on control over budget spending has
recently reported a huge misuse of budget funds allocated for the state
space program of 2005-2007. The probe partially proved the failure of
Kazakh Space Program…
- I find it inappropriate to comment on the performance
of the Ministry of Education and Science, [a coordinator of the Kazakh
Space Program for 2005-2007]. However, the facts speak for themselves:
the space program was disrupted by a bunch of failures and omissions,
which inflicted big losses on the state budget. That was mostly due to
"disorientation" that was typical of the sector at that time:
it was unclear who was in charge of what. The efficient management and
coordination of our efforts is one of the key targets of the National
Space Agency established in March last year. We would make our best to
reduce a disastrous effect of previous space program management to the
minimum and meet all the set targets.
- Thank you for the interview!
© 2008 Interfax-Kazakhstan news agency
References are obligatory