Azerbaijan, Baku, Dec. 12 /Trend/
Elena Kosolapova, Trend commentator
Kazakh, Russian and foreign press spread the information with big headlines concerning Kazakh Baikonur cosmodrome. The media predicts the withdrawal of Russia from the Baikonur cosmodrome and even forecasted the country that can replace it.
Such rumors have appeared after the statement of head of the Kazakh National Space Agency Kazkosmos Talgat Musabayev that Kazakhstan and Russia are considering the development of a new agreement on the use of the Baikonur complex, which provides a phased withdrawal from the lease relations.
However, it is early to make such statements based on existing bilateral agreements, under which the lease of the Baikonur complex expires in 2050, as well as on the state of space activity of the two countries.
At present the termination of tenancy is unprofitable for both countries, as Kazakhstan does not have the necessary experience to manage Baikonur, while Russia has no alternative sites.
The development of space activities in Kazakhstan began only in 2005 - 2007, when the government adopted the first state program on development of space activities. The first state agency responsible for space activities (Kazkosmos) was established in Kazakhstan in 2007. The legal framework for space activities was first legislated in Kazakhstan in early 2011, when the law 'On space activities' was adopted.
Kazakhstan is interested in the presence of foreign skilled professionals in Baikonur due to short history of space science development in the country. As an independent country Kazakhstan can and will certainly attract not only Russian experts. In particular, Kazakhstan intends to cooperate with Europe's leading space company EADS Astrium to create a full-fledged space industry, Talgat Musabayev said. However Baikonur is primarily designed for operation of the Russian space technology. In addition the site is already somewhat outdated, and its modernization will cost billions. Thus, if Russia withdraws from the Baikonur, it is unlikely that there will be many countries, willing to take its place.
At the same time Kazakhstan understands that Russia will be less interested in Baikonur and will be less willing to invest in its development in connection with the construction of a new cosmodrome Vostochniy on its own territory. In particular, the sides have been discussing the construction of launch pad for a new Russian missile Angara - Baiterek for a long time, but can not agree on the project financing.
It is possible that the day will come when Russia will withdraw from Baikonur on its own accord. By the expiry of the Baikonur lease (2050), this situation is quite real.
By that time, Russia will be able to implement its space programmes at the new cosmodrome. However partial transfer of spacecraft launches from Baikonur to Vostochniy will begin much earlier. According to the plans, the first launch of the carrier rocket from Vostochniy cosmodrome is planned for late 2015 and the first launch of a manned spacecraft - for 2018.
It is therefore logical that Kazakhstan is already starting to think how to manage the work of the vast complex in the future. Transfer of work is impossible in regard to such ambitious targets as Baikonur. This is why the process of Russia's full or partial withdrawal from the management of Baikonur may drag on for years, and, perhaps, decades.
"The possibility of withdrawal from Baikonur, which can be transferred to the jurisdiction of Kazakhstan, is currently discussed. However, we are not saying that we will terminate the lease, it can not be done all at once, this would lead to a trouble," Talgat Musabayev said.
He did not specify the time of lease termination, as the process could last till 2050.
At the moment, it is difficult to predict whether the lease of Baikonur will be extended after the expiry of the acting contract. However, Kazakhstan's initiatives aimed at the development of space science in the country suggest that by that time Kazakhstan will be able to manage Baikonur on its own. Thus, the decision on extension of the lease will likely depend on the political and economic situation in Russia and Kazakhstan at the time.