Putin Visits Vostochny, Discusses Future of Russian Space Program

Russian President Vladimir Putin looks over plans for Vostochny. (Credit: Roscosmos)
Russian President Vladimir Putin looks over plans for Vostochny. (Credit: Roscosmos)

Russian President-for-Life Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin was in the Amur region on April 12 to view construction progress at the new Vostochny spaceport, name its support city after Konstantin Tsiolkovsky, announce the commitment of $50 million to the space program through 2020, talk to the astronauts aboard the International Space Station, and lay out the future and challenges ahead for the nation’s space program.

Vostochny — which is now apparently being referred to as Baikonur East — and its adjoining city are being built on nine sites on 1,000 square kilometers of land in the Amur region.  Plans call for the first unmanned rockets to launch in 2015, followed by the crewed in 2018. By 2020, the complex will be completed and be ready for the launch of heavy-lift rockets.

The following compilation includes comments that Putin made during a meeting on the future of the space industry and a call he made to the space station crew. I’ve added subheadings to make it easier to read.

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Vladimir Putin looks over a map for Vostochny. (Credit: Roscosmos)

“I note that in 2013, funding for space programs in Russia amounted to about 181 billion rubles [$5.73 billion], an increase compared to 2008 of more than three times. Of the total amount of allocated funds, we are in third place in the world after the United States and a united Europe, and for the average annual growth in state funding of such programs are ahead of the leading space powers almost five times. It is also possible to complete the deployment of the GLONASS system to fulfill all obligations for the creation and operation of the International Space Station.”

On the Size of the Space Market

“Experts estimate that in the next few years, the demand for space in the world of production, joint research will grow steadily. If today, the market is 300-400 billion dollars by 2030 it could rise to $ 1.5 trillion. And, of course, we must take full advantage of this window of opportunity, the more we have, as I said, very good positions that have been created by earlier generations of researchers, engineers and technicians and workers. I note that from 2013 to 2020 for space activities within the relevant state programs should be allocated about a trillion 600 billion rubles. In this case, again, the emphasis should be on the most promising applications of scientific and technological areas.”

Coasting on Soviet-era Accomplishments

“Certainly, there are a number of unresolved issues that impede the development of the industry. They have accumulated over the years when the country was not able to put in space and was forced to exploit the Soviet reserve, since it was quite serious, powerful, has allowed us to maintain a strong position. So, on the Russian carrier rocket “Proton” and “Soyuz” and other missiles runs about 35-40 percent of the world launches today. Yet much of the rocket-space equipment significantly out of date, more than 80 percent of the used of electronic components produced abroad. In fact, there are no incentives and mechanisms for innovative development of the industry….

“Regarding incentives. Of course, they should be: for all those who work in the industry, and for your agency.”

Rebuilding the Space Industry

“The second key problem – it’s accelerated development of applied areas of the Russian space. You know, for a long time, priority was given to us manned projects. Over the years they spent between 40 to 58 percent of the budget of the space program, often to the detriment of other areas. As a result, we are lagging behind the world level in a number of areas, for example, by means of remote sensing, systems, personal satellite communications, recording and saving objects in distress, and so on. Noticeable gap between the leading space powers formed here and in technologies that offer the program of development of so-called deep space. Of course, we have to keep everything that has been accumulated in the manned part, but we need to pull up other areas that I just mentioned.

“The third basic problem – is the realization of promising projects in the field of rockets and new spacecraft for various purposes, as well as the development and production of rocket engines, which power an order of magnitude to exceed existing capacity.

“Particular emphasis should be placed on the development of the technological base to ensure the production of world-class space vehicles, as well as to create conditions for enterprises – space system operators applied purposes.

“The fourth priority – is increasing the group of spacecraft in orbit. Today, the Russian group of socio-economic purpose is noticeably inferior to the respective groups of other space powers.”

Recruiting a New Generation of Workers

“The fifth challenge. In the space sector to actively attract new scientists and engineers, especially, of course, talented young people, and for this to create the necessary conditions for professional growth, to provide decent wages and social conditions, to develop a system of research grants, by the way, and in the East. Today, we spoke with [Deputy Prime Minister] Dmitry O. [Rogozin], I ask the Government to keep that in mind. It should be a platform not only for missile launches, it should be a research center, where we have to create a comfortable environment in which people live, of course, should be a good medical center, as I said, scientific, sporting, cultural and entertainment, so that people felt safe there and wanted to work there, tried to come back to work.

“Rocket and space industry, as I have said, and we know it well, refers to knowledge-intensive industries. Therefore, special attention should be paid to the composition of scientific workers with advanced degrees.”

Restructuring the Space Industry

“And finally, one more fundamental problem. We need to determine the structure of management by the industry itself, which would allow us to achieve our goals. Of course, we have the appropriate structures exist, but we always have recently talked about the need to improve these structures. Let’s talk about that today, too. Work in this direction is underway. I beg to report, what are the suggestions so that we can discuss them and take appropriate action.

“Two words literally. The first – With regard to the structure. We have ministries that do not have the complex, which these agencies lead. Some ministries are almost solely a technique or a method. In the space sector, almost all belong to the state, or the state has a controlling stake. Therefore, in general, I do not rule that out, but I ask Dmitry Rogozin, Chairman of the Government, all the Government to think about it again. Basically, do not rule out that there could be a ministry. But in the first step should, of course, properly complement. It’s quite obvious.”

Construction at Vostochny. (Credit: Roscosmos)
Construction at Vostochny. (Credit: Roscosmos)

About Vostochny & the City of Tsiolkovsky

“I think that the new city will be built here and not just a launch site, not just a platform for launch – there will be built a research center and a city. I think if we are after advice from the locals call the city of the future – Tsiolkovsky, it will be correct….

“But it will just be possible with this platform, from this spaceport. I mean, what is planned launches of heavy and extra-heavy missiles. That is what will largely focus the activities of the launch site in the future. This is the case, as I said, deep-space exploration of the Moon, Mars and other objects. From here we plan to do it.

“It will not only pads, there will be research center. I think that we will have to move here, to some extent, assembly, because it is a large loads are known. Here, I hope everything will be in order to develop at least a significant part of the Russian space in this part of the country.”

On the Siting of Vostochny

“Site selection took place quite carefully. A special group was created by me at the time. We looked at a number of venues, including on the shores of the Pacific Ocean. But, based on the experience of our U.S. partners, who have the use of Cape Canaveral make big breaks due to weather conditions, the choice in the end we had made in respect of the areas where we were today. This favorable weather conditions: there are about 300 sunny days a year, this is a well-developed and has prospects of infrastructure, and it’s geography. By location is situated almost at the latitude of Baikonur. We today with Vladimir Alexandrovich [Popovkin] said, the difference is only around half a degree. Therefore the place is very good.”