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Vostochny and Angara mark two major milestones for Russian space sector
by Olga Zakutnyaya
Moscow (Voice of Russia) Nov 12, 2012

illustration only

Launch and technical complexes of the new Vostochny cosmodrome in Amur region will be put into balancing and commissioning in 2014. According to the plans of the Federal Space Agency, Vostochny will be used as the launch pad for the Angara complex, which now remains under development. However, in this context, the future of Baikonur is up in the air, and representatives of Kazakhstan have repeatedly expressed their concern about it.

The Vostochny cosmodrome, which just underwent active construction last year, should be ready for the first launch in 2015. As the head of the Dalspetsstroy, Pavel Buyanovsky has informed Vladimir Popovkin that construction and assembling of the main buildings, facilities, networks and communications will be completed in 2013, and launch and technical areas should be in commission in 2014.

It is expected that the first launch from the cosmodrome should take place in 2015, and it will be the launch of the Soyuz-2 carrier rocket, which will undergo tests in Plesetsk later. After that, the Angara is to be launched from Vostochny. And it is here that we have some difficulties.

The family of the Angara carrier rockets, which includes several modifications designed for various cargoes, has been under development since 1995. Its main developer and manufacturer is the Khrunichev State Research and Production Space Center. The first launch of the Angara carrier rocket from the Plesetsk cosmodrome is expected to be held next year.

But a few weeks ago, at the end of October, the launch of the Korean KSLV-1 carrier rocket (whose first stage was created at the Khrunichev Center and represents a variation of the Angara's first stage) was temporarily canceled. According to the message of the Roscosmos press-service, during the preparation of the carrier rocket for the launch, some observations were made concerning the on-board systems of the first stage.

The KSLV-1 was taken off the launch area and returned to the assembly-test facility for additional tests. Since then, there has been no information about the new launch date.

The South Korean KSLV-1 was launched two times before this, in 2009 and 2010, and both launches ended in failure. According to the results of the investigation, it happened due to malfunctions in the work of the South Korean elements of the rocket.

Skeptics express doubts, that the developers will not be able to stick to the date of the first launch in 2013, after the Koreans postponed their launch. However, there is an opinion that once the malfunction is identified, it will help the developers avoid failures during the domestic launch, and thus, it may even benefit Russia.

Meanwhile, in theory, the highest hopes are assigned to the Angara: being a safer carrier rocket (the Angara runs on oxygen and kerosene), it should not only replace the heavy Proton, but, in the long term, become the basis for the lunar programme.

The thing is that at the beginning of September the Khrunichev State Research and Production Space Center won the tender for designing sketches of a new heavy carrier rocket, which can be used for manned flights to the Moon, as well as to near-earth space stations.

It is very likely that the Khrunichev Center will become the developer of the whole project. Thus, the Vostochny cosmodrome and the Angara carrier rocket may become new key elements of the future Russian space program.

Meanwhile, Kazakhstan is very seriously concerned about the construction of Vostochny. Earlier it was planned that the rocket launch facility Bayterek in Baikonur, a joint Russian-Kazakh initiative, will be Angara's principal launch pad.

However, its construction terms are constantly being postponed, and against the background of Vostochny's active construction it looks like a loss of interest in Bayterek - and in the future in Baikonur, as well.

In general, it is clear why Baikonur is not the most convenient cosmodrome for Russia: it is located on the territory of another state; the cost of rent is constantly rising; and too many things depend on the current political situation.

But space exploration is not only about cosmodromes. Baikonur was taken into account in the previous space program, and in many respects it played a crucial role in it. Vostochny and the Angara are new "bricks" in this construction set. Only time will tell what can be built with these new "bricks".

Source: Voice of Russia


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