Putin: New Spaceport Will Make Russia Independent, More Competitive in Space

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin tours RSC Energia in July. (Credit: Russian Federation Government)

The Roscosmos website has a fascinating transcript of Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s visit to Uglegorsk, which is adjacent to the nation’s future Vostochny National Space Port. Putin gave formal remarks, engaged in a discussion with Roscosmos Head Anatoly Perminov, and spoke with villagers. The transcript, reproduced at this end of this post, brings to light a great deal of information about the new Russian facility.

“I must say that establishing a new spaceport – the decree on its construction was signed in 2007 – is one of the largest and most ambitious projects in modern Russia,” Putin said. “Construction of this facility will provide an opportunity not only to reaffirm Russia’s technological status and mobilise our intellectual resources and industrial potential. What is equally important, the project will enable hundreds and perhaps thousands of professionals and, above all young professionals, to express themselves and their talents and realise their most ambitious plans.

“And, of course, building this spaceport will serve as a good, solid push for the development of the Far Eastern region of the Russian Federation and create new, prestigious and well-paid jobs here,” he added.

Putin said construction would begin in 2011, with the first launches of commercial satellites taking place in the 2015-16 period. Initial human launches would take place in 2018-20.

Perminov explained that Vostochny will allow to sharply reduce its operations at the Baikonur Cosmodrome, which became part of the independent nation of Kazakhstan after the Soviet Union broke up.

“The first slide shows that Vostochny Cosmodrome will allow us to complete 40% of tasks related to the domestic orbital constellation of spacecraft by 2020, including manned space flights, meteorological observation, communications, television broadcasting, navigation, remote sensing for scientific purposes,” Perminov said.

“The share of tasks completed using the Baikonur Cosmodrome will fall from 65% to 11%. The share of launches is shown in the second slide: the share of carrier rockets launched from the new spaceport will reach 45% in 2020, with 44% from Plesetsk and 11% from Baikonur,” he added.

Russia plans continued cooperate in space with Kazakhstan; its lease on Baikonur runs out in 2050. Neither Putin nor Perminov explained what types of missions would continue to be flown from the Kazakh steppes. Nor was there any indication of whether the lease terms would be renegotiated to reflect the reduced activity.

Russia’s gradual reduction in flights from Baikonur will open up new opportunities for the Kazakh spaceport to pursue commercial ventures even as it provides competition in the form of a brand new Russian spaceport that is closer to the equator. How Kazakhstan manages this transition period will be key to whether Baikonur, from where Sputnik and Yuri Gagarin soared into orbit, will remain as one of the world’s leading spaceports.

Perminov noted fierce competition from other nations, with new spaceports around the world in China, South Korea, Indonesia and Brazil. Russia currently has 40 percent of the global launch market – and it wants more. The nation is also developing new, larger rockets and a successor to the Soyuz spacecraft.

“So for us to maintain progress on the global market and achieve more, Russia, of course, needs a new spaceport, which would reflect our priority of building new manned spacecraft, spacecraft and launch vehicles. Of course, if you renovate old, existing launching sites, it will entail huge costs, so is much easier to build new facilities,” Perminov said.

Putin told villagers in Uglegorsk that the new spaceport will bring massive changes to the underdeveloped area, including “a new city for 30,000-35,000 people, a launch complex (several launch complexes, in fact) and several companies – a good, large, full-scale spaceport. In this sense, the future will be good.”

“Simultaneously with the creation of technological infrastructure, and perhaps at an even faster pace, we will need to address social problems,” Putin said. “A new, modern city that is comfortable in all respects must be built – comfortable for the people who will live and work there. It must have comfortable flats and residential buildings. It should have new hospitals, clinics, schools, kindergartens and sports facilities.”

The prime minister said that locals would be given preferences for new jobs, especially people who served in “military units specializing in space operations. So your professionals will be in demand.”

Vladimir Putin’s Opening Remarks

God afternoon, colleagues!

Everyone in the world, and especially here in Russia, has long known that the principal, main spaceport in the Soviet Union was Baikonur.

Unfortunately, as a result of the collapse of the Soviet Union, this spaceport stayed in a country friendly to us but in another country nonetheless – Kazakhstan.

Thanks to the policies of President Nursultan Nazarbayev, who pays great attention to integration processes in the former Soviet Union and is building the closest possible alliance with Russia, the country is still using the Baikonur Cosmodrome for its missions. What is more, we signed a lease agreement lasting until 2050.

Still, for our own needs, we were forced to adapt military installations, including the Plesetsk Cosmodrome, and of course, this is not enough for such a strong spacefaring nation as Russia.

That is why even in 1995-1996 we started talking about the need to establish our own modern spaceport on our own Russian territory – not just adapted for civilian needs, but a modern, state-of-the-art scientific and technological base.

I must say that establishing a new spaceport – the decree on its construction was signed in 2007 – is one of the largest and most ambitious projects in modern Russia. Construction of this facility will provide an opportunity not only to reaffirm Russia’s technological status and mobilise our intellectual resources and industrial potential. What is equally important, the project will enable hundreds and perhaps thousands of professionals and, above all young professionals, to express themselves and their talents and realise their most ambitious plans.

And, of course, building this spaceport will serve as a good, solid push for the development of the Far Eastern region of the Russian Federation and create new, prestigious and well-paid jobs here.

We are proud of our space exploration. The Soviet Union and Russia have always been leaders in space exploration. We recently celebrated the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Baikonur Cosmodrome, which I mentioned, and the launch of Sputnik. In 2011, we will commemorate the first human space flight – the flight of Yuri Gagarin.

The Vostochny Cosmodrome is intended to confirm the high status of the Russian space programme and the leadership of Russia in this field. It will provide the country with independent access to space for all types of spaceships and vehicles, including manned vehicles and long-term missions to study the Moon and Mars.

Of course, we intend to continue cooperating with Kazakhstan – I have already mentioned this cooperation – we have a contract that is valid until 2050. And with our French partners, I hope we will have our first launch from the Guiana Space Centre in Kourou, French Guiana, in the first half of 2011.

However, demand for space technology and space services is high, and it continues to grow steadily. I’m sure this will continue in the future. This means that none of these sites will be vacant – all of them will be busy.

But again, for us it is essential to have your own spaceport – a high-tech, modern one that meets all the requirements of the 21st century and is located on our own territory. This concerns our technological development and our national security. In addition, this direct investment in the creation of an innovative economy and the development of Russian regions is critical for the Russian Far East.

In the next three years, 24.5 billion roubles from the federal budget will be allocated for the construction of the Vostochny Cosmodrome.

By the end of 2011 – now I want to talk about the stages of our work – we will need to complete all design, survey and preliminary engineering work to create all the necessary conditions, including organisational ones, establishing an organisational and managerial structure, starting work on the site and beginning large-scale operations.

The next stage is 2015-2016. By this time, the first launch should be ready and we can begin launching spacecraft. In 2016-2018, the second stage of the spaceport should be ready and we should begin launching commercial satellites. Finally, in 2018-2020, we will have the first launches of manned spacecraft.

Simultaneously with the creation of technological infrastructure, and perhaps at an even faster pace, we will need to address social problems. A new, modern city that is comfortable in all respects must be built – comfortable for the people who will live and work there. It must have comfortable flats and residential buildings. It should have new hospitals, clinics, schools, kindergartens and sports facilities.

This will be very complex and major undertaking, but also very interesting. And I have no doubt that our professionals – construction workers, scientists and technical specialists in all fields – will perform this work properly and in the designated time.

Discussion With Anatoly Perminov

Vladimir Putin: Let’s start the discussion. Mr Perminov, if you please.

Anatoly Perminov (Anatoly Perminov – head of the Federal Space Agency): Mr Putin, the main goals of the Russian space programme are guaranteed access to space and achieving independence in space operations across the spectrum of currents tasks. As you have noted, these goals will be met, primarily, by building a spaceport of scientific and socio-economic significance in Russia.

The first slide shows that Vostochny Cosmodrome will allow us to complete 40% of tasks related to the domestic orbital constellation of spacecraft by 2020, including manned space flights, meteorological observation, communications, television broadcasting, navigation, remote sensing for scientific purposes. The share of tasks completed using the Baikonur Cosmodrome will fall from 65% to 11%. The share of launches is shown in the second slide: the share of carrier rockets launched from the new spaceport will reach 45% in 2020, with 44% from Plesetsk and 11% from Baikonur.

It should be noted that today there is very strong competition indeed in the international launch market. Russia’s share last year was 40%, and it continues to grow. Currently, there are already 21 spaceports or rocket-launching pads owned by 11 countries.

New launch sites are being built in China, Korea, Indonesia, Brazil, so three of them are located here in the rapidly developing Asia-Pacific region. Existing launch sites are being expanded, especially the Guiana Space Centre. So for us to maintain progress on the global market and achieve more, Russia, of course, needs a new spaceport, which would reflect our priority of building new manned spacecraft, spacecraft and launch vehicles. Of course, if you renovate old, existing launching sites, it will entail huge costs, so is much easier to build new facilities.

Vladimir Putin: I would like to remind you that we took quite a long time to choose a place to build the new spaceport. Experts search for a location for a year and a half, if I’m not mistaken…

Anatoly Perminov: A year and a half, yes.

Vladimir Putin: …and they considered various places in the Russian Federation, including two places on the Pacific coast. Still, after analysing all factors affecting this important decision, this area was selected because based on its geographic location, based on the fields of incidence, based on the fact that this location can launch heavier spacecraft into orbit with lower fuel costs and a host of other important factors. In the end, we settled on this region.

I believe that one of the most important factors is infrastructure. Here there is railway access, and we’re finishing a motorway – we’ll still talk about this and a lot remains to be done for the motorway, especially on the way to Khabarovsk – but in general the infrastructure has been built. The river port and the airport have been built, and there will be sufficient electrical power.

These are all very important considerations during the decision-making process.

Anatoly Perminov: The idea of a building a spaceport – as shown on Slide Number 3 – is to reach our goals of preserving Russia’s status as a leading space power, with guaranteed access to space from its territory, and aiding the socio-economic development of the Russian Far East, as well as creating the conditions necessary to carry out ambitious projects in space, economic development, and strengthening the population in the Far East by upgrading the local industrial base and creating the conditions necessary to attract investment to the region.

Funding the construction of space infrastructure and launch pads is part of the Federal Space Programme and providing for infrastructure is part of the federal target programme for the development of Russian spaceports.

As you said, as part of the state commission – I will not dwell on questions of choosing a place of deployment; this is shown in the fourth slide -like a true professional, you identified almost all the conditions…

Vladimir Putin: At some stage, I remember that you reported that other places were better.

Anatoly Perminov: Yes, I reported on that, but I wasn’t taking into account two factors that played a crucial role – earthquakes and…

Remark: Strong winds.

Anatoly Perminov: …visibility and strong winds in the place that we proposed. Everything else was equal, but now these two factors make them two and a half times more expensive, so the proposal was deemed unacceptable.

Vladimir Putin: It would be necessary to carry out earthquake resistance measures.

Anatoly Perminov: Yes, there are major measures there. No spaceport in the world is built to be earthquake resistant. We decided not to do this, we reported on it to you, and you took a decision.

Vladimir Putin: Yes.

Anatoly Perminov: At present, the necessary foundation is in place for the transition to actually beginning construction.

Currently, a systematic project has been created – as shown on the fifth slide –
a blueprint design was made for a manned transportation system and the rocket launch pad for mid-sized rockets with increased carrying capacity. An interagency commission has been established and is working on coordinating activities related to construction of the spaceport, the prime contractors have been selected and land in the Amur region has been reserved, and the town of Uglegorsk has retained its status of a closed administrative-territorial formation.

Thank you.

Vladimir Putins Remarks to Uglegorsk Villagers

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin spoke to residents of the village of Uglegorsk in the Amur Region, where the new spaceport is to be built. Asked about the future of the village, Putin said, “The future will be good, because we are planning to build a new Russian spaceport, a new city for 30,000-35,000 people, a launch complex (several launch complexes, in fact) and several companies – a good, large, full-scale spaceport. In this sense, the future will be good.”

Speaking about the new jobs the spaceport will create, the prime minister noted that preference will be given to professionals from the Amur Region, “especially from around here,” where “military units specializing in space operations are stationed.”

“So your professionals will be in demand,” said Mr Putin.