April 12, 2008

Putin Pushes Russia’s Space Industry

Russian President Vladimir Putin longs for the Russian Space program to stand out like it once did.

In a presentation to the Security Council on the eve of Cosmonauts' Day, Putin urged officials to speed the financing of a brand new cosmodrome in the Far East. Cosmonauts' day is special because it marks the first manned flight into space, when Yuri Gagarin, a military pilot from the Soviet spent 108 minutes in space in 1961.

Russia prides itself on having the first manned spaceflight, launching the first "sputnik" satellite, sending the first woman into space, and sending a cosmonaut into space for the first spacewalk.

Recently, Russia has been forced to raise funds by sending tourists to space. Its main cosmodrome, Baikonur, which is rented from Kazakhstan, sends crews and cargo to the International Space Station. In Putin's words, it is time for Russia to have "a guaranteed access to space".

Putin wants to keep the nation's leadership role in space by building a new facility. "Now we have the real chance to move from exploiting and supporting previous, often Soviet, 'space capital' to carrying out new, ambitious projects in space," Putin claimed. "This means to have a possibility to make launches for all purposes from our own land -- from automated satellites to manned spacecraft and inter-planetary stations," he said.

Vostochny, the planned cosmodrome, will be located in Russia's Far East region of Amur, and should be finished by 2015. According to the head of Russia's space agency, Anatoly Perminov, all of Russia's manned space programs will take place at the new facilities only five years later. 

There are many reasons as to why Russia has had issues with its portion of the ISS. Scarce financing due to capitalism was a hindrance in the 1990s.

Then in 2003 when the U.S. Space Shuttle Columbia disintegrated, the project took another hit. In July, Russia intends to ask its ISS partners to extend the lifespan of the ISS to 2020 because of the delayed construction of the outposts' Russian segment.

Russia also plans for other projects including developing military, civilian, and scientific satellites as well as a national satellite navigation system.

Putin said that Russia will also push forward with their work on a new family of Angara booster rockets in order to for the system to become competitive and global.