By Associated Press
posted: 12:44 pm ET
16 April 2002
MOSCOW (AP) _ Russia plans to relocate all its military satellite launches from the Baikonur cosmodrome in the ex-Soviet republic of Kazakhstan to its own launch pad, the commander of the nation's space forces said Tuesday.
Russia will continue using Baikonur, which it leases from Kazakhstan, for launching manned missions and commercial satellites, but will work to transfer all military launches to the Plesetsk cosmodrome in northern Russia, Space Forces chief Col-Gen. Anatoly Perminov said on an inspection trip to Baikonur.
``This is our task for the next eight to 10 years,'' Perminov said, according to the Interfax-Military News Agency and ITAR-Tass. He didn't explain the reasons behind the move.
Some 75 percent of all Russian spacecraft, and more than half of military satellites are currently launched from Baikonur, Perminov said.
Thanks to its location closer to the equator, Baikonur provides far more favorable launch conditions compared to Plesetsk. The Earth's rotation is faster at the equator, which helps propel rockets to high, geostationary orbits with less fuel and heavier payloads.
Russian officials have often clashed with Kazakhstan over Baikonur, with Kazakh officials complaining about spills of toxic rocket fuel and sometimes cutting power to the launch pads over alleged energy debts.
Alexander Medvedev, the chief of Russia's major rocket manufacturer, the Khrunichev company, recently recalled that the Kazakh authorities once cut power to a launch pad minutes before a scheduled commercial liftoff. The incident prompted Khrunichev to finance the building of a backup power system on Baikonur.
Russia planned to launch 32 satellites last year, but put only half of them in orbit as other launches were delayed for various reasons. It plans to launch 32 satellites this year, the ITAR-Tass quoted a Space Forces spokesman as saying