Kazakhstan confiscates Russian assets at the Baikonur Cosmodrome | Science | The USA Print

The tensions between Russia and Kazakhstan, allies, although estranged since the start of the invasion of Ukraine, threaten the launch of the new generation of Russian space rockets, the Soyuz-5 irtysh. The Government of the Central Asian country has confiscated the assets of the Russian Terrestrial Space Infrastructure Operation Center, a subsidiary of the Roscosmos space agency, on its territory. Astana, responsible for the launch platform, accuses Moscow of not fulfilling its part of that project and not carrying out a study of the environmental impact of the rockets, for which it demands 13,600 million tenge, almost 28 million euros in exchange, and has prohibited the head of the Russian subsidiary from leaving the country. The incident and its repercussions on relations between the two countries are serious: Kazakhstan’s Communications Minister Bagdat Musin had earlier warned that Roscosmos’s criticism of the delays would be “a diplomatic miscalculation.”

Astana leases Russia’s main space base, the Baikonur Cosmodrome, from Moscow. The two countries formed the Baiterek joint venture in 2005 to manage various projects at the space base, whose lease expires in 2050, and entrusted it with the construction of a new platform for the launch of the Soyuz-5. The debut of this rocket was scheduled for the third quarter of this year, but the director of the Roscosmos rocket department, Dmitri Baranov, announced in January that its launch was postponed to 2024 without explaining the reasons for this decision.

no ukrainian rockets

Development of the Soyuz-5 began in 2016, two years after the annexation of Crimea and direct Russian intervention in the 2014 Donbas war. Moscow was forced to seek a replacement for the Ukrainian Zenit space rockets due to the break total with Kiev and the withdrawal of the Soviets Proton-M. According to Roscosmos, its new class of two-stage rockets can put up to 17 tons into orbit.

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However, delays in the construction of the launch pad have torpedoed this space program. The Kazakh authorities announced in July 2022 that the inauguration of the platform was postponed for a period of six to twelve months, and the then head of Roscosmos, Dmitri Rogozin, confirmed that the launches would also be affected. Rogozin was dismissed that same month, on July 15, and his successor, Yuri Borisov, charged hard against Kazakhstan and demanded compensation of some 200 million dollars, around 186 million euros.

Minister Musin took note of those statements. Kazakhstan accused Roscosmos of failing to carry out a study on the environmental impact of the rockets, and the Astana International Financial Center court agreed with it in November. The Russian space agency was notified of the ruling in January, and after three months it has not voluntarily paid the compensation, so the Kazakh authorities have executed the confiscation.

In any case, the seizure of Russian assets does not affect the entire space base. “This does not apply to the entire Baikonur complex, but to the properties of the Center for the Operation of Terrestrial Space Infrastructure in the territory of the Republic of Kazakhstan,” Musin clarified, according to the local newspaper Informburó.

The development of the Soyuz-5 rockets continues in parallel despite this dispute and the sanctions that have isolated the country due to the invasion of Ukraine. “All the components will arrive between the second and the third quarter. The motors and the control and telemetry systems. By the end of the year, assembly of the first rocket should begin,” Baranov said in January.

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