The Russian news agency TASS is reporting that Kazakhstan has backed Russia’s proposal for unmanned launches at the future Baiterek missile complex at the Baikonur Cosmodrome, this according to Askar Zhumagaliyev, Kazakhstan’s Minister of Digital Development, Innovation and Aerospace Industry.
"This complex was supposed to be manned. Now, Russia has suggested abandoning the ‘manned’ part, which will increase the economic effectiveness of the investments and cut Kazakhstan’s expenses. The initial cost was around $314 million, and today I talked about $233 million required for building the launch site, and for its upgrades. This is why we support this offer," Zhumagaliyev told TASS. Read also
The minister explained that, "’unmanned’ means that cosmonauts will not go into space from this launch site — there will be no pilots." He also reiterated that Kazakhstan, together with Russia and the UAE, is looking into another project: upgrading the Baikonur’s Site 1, or "Gagarin’s Start," which launches manned missions.
In 2018, Russia and Kazakhstan signed a protocol on amendments to an agreement dated December 22, 2004, to create the Baiterek launch site at the Baikonur Cosmodrome. The protocol lays out the parties’ responsibilities on the project. According to the document, Russia shoulders responsibility for the development of the Soyuz-5 and Soyuz-6 missiles for the complex, while Kazakhstan gets to create the ground-based infrastructure by upgrading the existing Zenit-M launch site. To that end, Russia terminated the Zenit-M lease and handed over the complex to Kazakhstan for reconstruction.
In related news from TASS, Kazakhstan’s Senate (upper house of parliament) on Thursday ratified the protocol on amendments and supplements to the agreement between the governments of Kazakhstan and Russia on building the Baiterek space launch facility at the Baikonur space center signed on December 22, 2004, a TASS correspondent reported from the parliament’s press center.
The protocol signed in Moscow in August 2018 stipulates the basic conditions for the implementation of the project and its financing. Under this project, Russia is developing the Soyuz-5 carrier rocket scheduled to be launched from the Baiterek facility.
"The protocol envisages the replacement of the launch vehicle in the project (from the Angara launch vehicle to a Russian medium-lift launch vehicle), as well as the location of the construction site of the Zenit-M space-rocket complex. It stipulates the distribution of financial resources between the parties, according to which the Russian side provides financing for the creation of a launch vehicle and transportation of its components, the upgrading of the upper stage complex, spacecraft and the reentry vehicle," the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, Defense and Security said in a statement.
For its part, Kazakhstan provides financing for the maintenance and operation of ground-based infrastructure of the Zenit-M complex and the creation of educational and training facilities for training personnel for the operation of the launch and technical facilities.
According to Zhumagaliyev, Russia plans to earmark $916 million for the Baiterek project and Kazakhstan about $233 million.
After ratification by the Senate, the protocol will be submitted to the president of Kazakhstan for signature.