article image

Russia builds new space port to increase its share of the space market

Ben Gilland
Apr 14, 2012, 7:00 UTC

Russia has started building is first new space centre since the end of the Soviet era.

Vostochny will be built on the site of a former spaceport, Svobodny, in the Amur region in the far east of Russia.

As it stands, Russia has two active active space centres – Plestsk and Baikonur. Vostochny is needed because Plestsk is not used for manned missions, whilst Baikonur is in the state of Kazakhstan and leased by the Russian government.

The new space port will represent the country's commitment to invigorate its space programme and implement commercial space projects.

Global demand for space launch services is expected to increase dramatically in the coming years and there are more than 20 launch facilities being built around the world in anticipation of the growing space sector. Among those countries investing in new facilities are the U.S.A., China, Korea, Indonesia and Brazil.

Russia is hoping to increase its share of the space market in developing countries from 3 per cent to 20 per cent by 2030.

Russia’s Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said earlier this week that a national strategy was needed for the development of the country’s space launch centres and that about 150 billion rubles (£3.2 billion) will be earmarked for space programmes in 2012 alone.

Vostochny will receive more than 173 billion rubles (£3.7 billion) by 2015 and the total cost is expected to reach 400 billion rubles (£8.5 billion).

It will be at least six years until Vostochny is ready for its first manned launch, but the Russian space agency, Roscosmos, is hoping that the facility will be ready to conduct unmanned launches by 2015.

When complete, Vostochny will cover an impressive 550 square kilometres and boast two launch pads for manned flights and two for unmanned cargo vessels. It will also have a training centre and oxygen and hydrogen generation plants. 

A science city will be built near the launch centre, which will also handle planned missions to the Moon.

The spaceport’s location was chosen because the region is sparsely populated and close to the Pacific Ocean, which will allow rockets to jettison their lower stages in the ocean. Also, since the site will be built over the former Svobodny Cosmodrome, much of the infrastructure is already in place.

The new space port may not spell the end for Baikonur, which has been the centre of Russia’s commercial space projects and which has an impressive history including the launch of the first ever human space flight by Yuri Gagarin on April 12 1961. Russia will continue to lease the facility even after Vostochny is complete but, with Kazakhstan complaining that the current rent of 3.4 billion rubles (£72 million) is too low, the new facility will give Russia future security.

Furthermore, much of the equipment at Baikonur is now showing its age and will require significant investment to secure its future.

Putin has also said that Russia should work more closely with the European Space Agency and other countries with their own space programmes. Just last week Russia and ESA reached an agreement on a joint Mars mission, ExoMars, after NASA pulled out of its commitments to the project.