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RUSSIAN SPACE
Baikonur cosmodrome still most operational in the world
by Maria Balyabina
Moscow (Voice of Russia) Jan 27, 2014


Russia, which has been leasing the Baikonur Cosmodrome since 1994, has carried out more than 70 per cent of its launches from there.

The Baikonur Cosmodrome has again confirmed its title of the most operational space launch centre in the world. Last year 23 rocket carriers were launched from the launch pads of the Baikonur Cosmodrome, which is the first and, as it was mentioned before, the largest space centre in the world. The U.S. Cape Canaveral Air Force Station comes second.

The Baikonur Cosmodrome was built in Kazakhstan in the Soviet era times its headquarters was set up there in 1955. It is exactly the place, where the "space era" started. The first artificial satellite to orbit the Earth and the first cosmonaut - Yuri Gagarin - were launched into space from the Baikonur Cosmodrome.

Besides, it is the largest cosmodrome in the world whose territory stretches for more than 6,700 square metres. Over the past years it has repeatedly confirmed its status of a cosmodrome that is being used most often and most actively, Academician Alexander Zheleznyakov from the Russian Academy of Cosmonautics named after K.E. Tsiolkovsky says.

"23 launches, including one emergency launch were carried out from the Baikonur Cosmodrome last year. The U.S. space centre at Cape Canaveral from which only 10 launches were carried out, is second. The Kuru Cosmodrome is next, and following it are the Chinese space centre in Jiuquan and the Russian Plesetsk spaces centre, with each of them having 7 launches. And as regards all the others the figure is even lower - 82 launches. Which means that the Baikonur Cosmodrome is used by 28 per cent more frequently than the other space centres."

Russia, which has been leasing the Baikonur Cosmodrome since 1994, has carried out more than 70 per cent of its launches from there. The fact that Russia gives preference to the Baikonur Cosmodrome as compared to its northern-most Plesetsk Cosmodrome is conditioned by its favourable geographical situation, Editor-in-Chief of the " News of Cosmonautics" journal Igor Marinin says:

"First of all, since it is closer to the equator, each rocket has a greater load capacity there due to using the speed of the rotation of the Earth. Therefore, it is far more comfortable to launch rockets from the Baikonur Cosmodrome than from the Plesetsk Space Centre. What' s more, apparatuses, due to be sent into the geostationary orbit - meaning all communications satellites and piloted cosmonautics - are launched only from the Baikonur Cosmodrome."

True, in the coming decades Baikonur may lose its leadership. Russia plans to transfer some of its launches to the Plesetsk Space Centre located in the Arkhangelsk Region, which in the 70s and 80s of the last century was the world's leader in this field. Besides, the construction of the Vostochny Cosmodrome in the Amur Region is going full steam now.

According to the current plan, the first unmanned spacecraft will be launched from the Vostochny Cosmodrome later this year, and the pilot programme launches will start there in 2018. In the coming 20 years Russia will transfer nearly 90 per cent of its launches to these space centres and will continue to use the Baikonur Cosmodrome too, Alexander Zheleznyakov says.

"Time is needed to complete the construction of the infrastructure on the Vostochny Cosmodrome. Meanwhile, Baikonur will be used as before. Kazakhstan is interested as well despite the fact that it keeps saying that it wants to cancel the lease agreement for Baikonur. Kazakhstan will not be able to run the Baikonur Cosmodrome unassisted."

Therefore, experts say that Baikonur will remain the world leader in the near future. 26 launches of the rocket carriers " Soyuz", "Proton- -M", "Zenit", and "Strela" are planned for this year.

Source: Voice of Russia

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