Kazkosmos Turns 5, Looks to Future

Kazkosmos Chairman Talgat Musabayev

Officials celebrated the fifth birthday of Kazakhstan’s space agency, Kazkosmos, on Tuesday as they looked ahead to building a full-fledged space industry that would serve as a key high-tech sector for the nation. A key part of this effort is cooperating with foreign space powers, including Europe, and training a new generation of aerospace workers abroad.

When the Soviet Union broke up 20 years ago, Kazakhstan inherited control of the Baikonur Cosmodrome. However, the country lacked a space agency and much in the way of a domestic space industrial sector. There were few trained engineers and technicians, a problem the nation is still addressing today.

Kazakhstan made several attempts to create a national space agency before Kazkosmos came into existence in March 2007. The National Aerospace Agency (NACA) was formed under the Cabinet of Ministers in 1993 and operated for two years. NACA then came under the control of the Ministry of Science in 1996. NACA then lost its status as an agency in 2000 and became the Aerospace Committee, which functioned as part of three different ministries over the subsequent years.

To honor Kazkosmos’ fifth anniversary, officials launched a competition to create a logo for the national space agency. Officials plan to unveil the winning design on April 12, the anniversary of the first human spaceflight by Yuri Gagarin. The space agency will also sponsor other festivities to honor the historic flight.

Kazakhstan is attempting to create a high-tech workforce that can diversify the nation’s space sector beyond just launching rockets. A key part of that effort is an agreement with EADS Astrium to train Kazakh workers in Europe. The agreement was signed in October 2009 during a state visit by French President Nicolas Sarkozy that covered joint projects in remote sensing and spacecraft assembly and testing.

The first group of 24 engineers and managers to Toulouse, France for training in January 2011. They took part in a two-stage training program in the design of satellite systems. Earlier this year, the group left for practical training at Surrey Satellite Technology Limited in England. A second group of specialists began a training program in Toulouse earlier this month.

— Based on Kazkosmos PAO press releases