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Kazakh Parliament Approves Baikonur Cosmodrome Amendments With Russia, Land Return

The supermoon is seen behind the Soyuz MS-03 spacecraft set on the launch pad at the Russian-leased Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on November 14, 2016. / AFP PHOTO / Kirill KUDRYAVTSEV

The lower house of the Kazakh parliament approved legislation in December 2019 that amends Kazakh-Russian space cooperation at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in the Kyzylorda region of southwest Kazakhstan, as well as the return to Kazakhstan of four areas of land leased by Russia around the large launch complex.

Kazakhstan leases the Baikonur Cosmodrome to Russia, and the current lease agreement expires in 2050.

One of the amendments approved by the lower house of the Kazakh parliament is the approval to build the Baiterek launch complex at Baikonur. The Baiterek launch complex will enable the launch of Russian-made Soyuz-5 launch vehicles. According to the Kazakh Minister of Digital Development, Innovation, and Aerospace Industry, Askar Zhumagaliev, the Kazakh government will contribute U.S.$233 million to the Baiterek launch complex, while Russia will contribute U.S.$916 million. Kazakhstan will be responsible for all ground infrastructure at the Baiterek launch complex, while Russia will be responsible for Soyuz-5 SLV production, testing, technical modernisation, and launch vehicle upgrades.

The Baiterek launch complex was originally envisioned to be used by the Russian-built Angara launch vehicle, but significant delays in that programme meant that both Russia and Kazakhstan decided to use the Soyuz-5 SLV as the workhorse for the complex.

“Both decided to implement the project on the basis of the Soyuz-5 launch vehicle. In general, Russia is responsible for the creation of the rocket, and we are responsible for the ground-based infrastructure,” said Zhumagaliev in a statement to the Kazakh parliament.

The Baiterek launch complex project will begin work in January 2020 and is expected to be completed by the end of 2023.

The lower house of the Kazakh parliament also approved protocols that will see Russia return four separate areas of land within the Baikonur Cosmodrome that Roscosmos had previously leased from Kazakhstan. These areas of land were no longer being used by Russia, and are believed to be important for a number of proposed trans-Eurasian infrastructure projects, to include a China-Europe transit route, an Almaty to Moscow railway line, as well as a pipeline and the development of a settlement at Tyuratam.

Speaking to local media, an unnamed official from Roscosmos said, “Work on the refinement of coordinates and leasing of certain land areas not used by Russia in the course of space activities at the Baikonur Cosmodrome will continue in the future taking into consideration interests of both parties.”

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