By Douglas Messier
Parabolic Arc Managing Editor
Russian Ruler for Life Vladimir Putin and Kazakhstan’s only president ever, Nursultan Nazarbayev, have directed the heads of their respective space agencies to develop a “comprehensive bilateral agreement governing the joint use of Baikonur, the development of its scientific and technological capacity, joint missile systems, training and participation of Kazakhstani specialists in launch services,” the KAZINFORM news agency reports.
The decision was announced last week during Putin’s official state visit to Almaty, a trip that corresponded with a gathering of the space agencies of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). The commonwealth is a loose association of Russia, Kazakhstan and eight other former Soviet republics.
“We had a detailed discussion on the development of our cooperation in the space sector,” Nazarbayev said.”The Baikonur Cosmodrome, which launched the first person on our planet into space, is a common source of pride for Russia and Kazakhstan and works for the good of our nations.
“We spoke about deepening cooperation between Russia and Kazakhstan and participation by Kazakhstani specialists in this field, educating young people, and most importantly, maintaining the infrastructure of the city of Baikonur. Today, a special statement by both Presidents was adopted on this issue,” he added.
The goal of the agreement includes improving the legal framework under which both nations will use the spaceport. Kazakhstan has owned Baikonur since the former Soviet republic declared independence from the collapsing Soviet Union in 1991. Russia has a long-term lease on the facility until 2050 at a fixed price of $115 million per year. Although Russia is building its own spaceport at Vostochny in the Far East, it will continue to use Baikonur largely for commercial launches.
The two nations want to improve the aging infrastructure at the Central Asian spaceport. The president specifically mentioned the completion of the Baiterek launch complex for Russia’s long-delayed Angara rocket, which is set to make its maiden flight next year for Plesetsk. Paying for Baiterek’s construction has been a point of contention between the two nations.
Russia and Kazakhstan also have been in a dispute recently about the use of a new drop zone for the first stages of Russian rockets launching out of Baikonur. Kazakhstan wanted more money to allow this debris to fall on its territory. Media reports out of Russia indicate the leaders resolved their differences over these matters during the summit and that agreement will be announced soon.
The presidents also pledged to deepen cooperation on the Russian Global Navigation Satellite System (GLONASS) and other projects of mutual interest.
Space officials at the CIS gathering discussed deepening cooperation in a range of areas, including GLONASS, fundamental and applied space science, and the monitoring of emergency and disaster situations, according to KAZINFORM.