Baiterek Launch Complex to be Refocused on Zenit Heavy-Lift Derivative

The Angara rocket family. (Credit: Allocer)

Space News is reporting that Kazcosmos wants to refocus the Baiterek launch complex originally intended for the new Angara rocket to handling Zenit launches:

In testimony to the Kazakh parliament, KazCosmos Director Talgat Musabayev said the Baiterek complex has suffered from Russian delays. Its estimated cost has risen more than sevenfold, he said. He did not give a specific figure in his presentation.

Musabayev said reorienting Baiterek to take advantage of the Baikonur infrastructure built for the Russian-Ukrainian Zenit rocket would be much less expensive than the original plan based on Russia’s Angara rocket, now in development.

Quoting the Interfax news agency, says Kazcosmos officials were unhappy that Russia was refusing to contribute funding for the new launch complex. Russia’s plan to build an Angara launch complex at its new Vostochny spaceport in the Far East also undermined the economic rationale for bringing the rocket to Baikonur.

According to Musabaev, Kazakh officials were conducting serious negotiations to form a new joint venture with Russia around a launch vehicle other than Angara, such as Zenit. Built in Ukraine, the Zenit rocket already had an operational launch pad in Baikonur, however, a Russian firm RKK Energia recently publicized plans to develop a Sodruzhestvo (Alliance) heavy-lifting launch vehicle from components of the Zenit rocket.

Joint development of Baiterek was part of a January 2004 agreement that extended Russia’s lease on Baikonur to 2050. Kazakhstan now wants to renegotiate the lease with the aim of taking full control of Baikonur from the Russians.

Russia has been developing Angara, which is set to make its inaugural launch next year, since 1995.  Angara is a modular family of rockets designed to loft light to heavy payloads into orbit. The goal is to replace a number of existing rockets, including the Zenit and Proton.