Perminov: We’re Staying at Baikonur Forever

Soyuz rocket

There’s a great scene in the 1988 movie, Married to the Mob, in which Connie Russo (Mercedes Ruehl) explains the facts of Mafia life to Angela de Marco (Michelle Pfeiffer).

“We’re your friends, Angela, whether you like it or not,” she declares.

Angela was family, and there was no escaping it. Not even after Connie’s covetous husband, Tony “the Tiger” Russo (Dean Stockwell), rubbed out Angela’s hit man husband, “Cucumber” Frank de Marco (Alec Baldwin).

The situation is not so different for Kazakhstan. Nearly 20 years after it became the last Soviet republic to declare independence, the nation remains joined at the hip with Russia through its Baikonur Cosmodrome. And don’t expect that to change — ever.

“We will not abandon Baikonur till the end of times,” Roscosmos Head Anatoly Perminov declared this week.

Russia has a lease on the facility until 2050 at a rate of $115 million per year.  Unhappy with having its main launch site in a foreign nation, Russia is developing a separate spaceport on its own territory in the Far East set to open in 2015. However, it will continue launch operations at Baikonur, home of historic firsts such as Sputnik 1 and Yuri Gagarin’s spaceflight.

“Space cooperation with Kazakhstan would be gradually switched to the entirely commercial tracks,” said Perminov, who added that Kazakhstan had offered one of its launch pads to Russa for commercial flights.

Although Russia’s flat-rate lease has been the subject of disagreement, the country’s continued use of Baikonur is not a bad thing for Kazakhstan, a developing company country whose per capita income was $11,800 in 2008. With Russia shifting its human spaceflight program to its new spaceport, Baikonur will be opened up for more commercial launches. Perhaps even ones to private space stations being planned by companies around the world.

Note: Based on a post on the Roscosmos website.