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Entering into a new orbit
Cosmodrome Vostochny in the difficult matter of the revival of astronautics plays a central role.
How astronautics began
The construction of the first test site for launch vehicles in the USSR began almost immediately after the Second World War ended and the world became a platform for confrontation between the two most influential states. A new structure appeared within the Ministry of Defense of the Soviet Union - the State Central Polygon (GCP). They decided to build the site a hundred kilometers southeast of Stalingrad, not far from the village of Kapustin Yar in the Astrakhan region: here the work of transport routes was established, there was also free land for the construction of the test site, as well as for the further fall of missile parts.
On October 18, 1947, for the first time in the Soviet Union, the first ballistic missile was launched from here. In the period from October 18 to November 13, 11 V-2 missiles were launched, of which 9 reached the target, albeit with a large deviation from the specified trajectory, and two crashed. Until 1957, Kapustin Yar was the only test site for Soviet ballistic missiles. The tests of the R-1, R-2, R-5, R-12, R-14 missiles and others were carried out at the test site. And everything was fine as long as the range did not exceed 1-1,5 thousand km. But when work began on a fundamentally new multistage ballistic missile of intercontinental range R-7, the former test base of the test site was cramped. The range of the R-7 exceeded 8 thousand km, the flight route passed in an easterly direction practically through the entire Asian part of the Soviet Union. Thus, the flight tests of the P-7 were fraught with enormous difficulties, including the alienation of too many areas for the fall of the spent stages. It was then that the need arose to create a new landfill.
Initially, the commission, which chose a place to build a new site, fixed its gaze on the western coast of the Caspian Sea (Astrakhan region and Dagestan): good transport routes, the presence of desert areas, a favorable life climate and the proximity of the Volga, a source of fresh water, spoke in favor of this option. And only one problem has kept scientists from building - mountainous terrain. Still not familiar with the prospects of autonomous missile control systems, specialists were afraid of the loss of radio control of the ground station.
Already at the beginning of 1957, the main structures of the Baikonur cosmodrome (from the Kazakh "Baikonir" - rich valley) were built, which allowed the flight tests of the world's first military intercontinental missile R-7, which later became a peaceful launch vehicle and began to ensure the success of the global cosmonautics - the launch of the world's first artificial earth satellite 4 October 1957, and the first manned space flight.
In the same year, in the northern taiga, missile complexes of the first intercontinental ballistic missile compound in our country (the Angara object) were built and put on combat duty. The cold war from land, water and air gradually spread into space. Launch complexes of the future military spaceport Plesetsk located away from the southern borders, along which the construction of American military air bases unfolded. The dense and difficult northern taiga made it easy to disguise this strategically important object. In the summer of 1963, the state decided to use launch complexes in Plesetsk for spacecraft launches.
After the collapse of the USSR and the actual loss of the Baikonur cosmodrome, Russia was faced with the need to create a new test and launch site. If launches of space vehicles by launch vehicles of the light and middle classes could be carried out from the Plesetsk cosmodrome, the issue of launching heavy launch vehicles was particularly acute. Launch complexes of the Proton launch vehicle were only available at Baikonur.
The main problem of the first Far Eastern cosmodrome experts call the half-hearted nature of decisions regarding its development. Deciding that it would be cheaper to just rewrite obsolete military missiles into space ones, the officials gave the order to create a conversion project "Strela." He immediately caused a wave of indignation of the environmental community due to the use of toxic fuel in it - heptyl. An alternative to it was the deployment to the Free Site to launch more modern and environmentally friendly Angara launch vehicles, but this project required too much government investment.
After the “conservation” of Svobodny, Russia has two spaceports left: a civilian overseas Baikonur and a military Plesetsk located in the North. Due to the geographical location, launches from Plesetsk to the geostationary orbit are approximately 30% more expensive and more complicated than from the Free one. As for Baikonur, it costs the Russian budget 6,16 billion rubles per year: the launch of the cosmodrome costs about 5 billion rubles a year (the cost of renting the Baikonur complex is about 3,5 billion rubles a year; about 1,5 billion rubles a year Russia spends on maintenance of spaceport facilities - data taken from the decree "On the budget of the city of Baikonur for 2012 year"). From the federal budget of Russia to the budget of the city of Baikonur annually carried out free of charge in the amount of 1,16 billion rubles. Not to mention the fact that in recent years, Kazakhstan has blocked the launches of Russian missiles under various pretexts several times, and also that after 40 years of intensive exploitation, Baikonur requires a complete modernization under the new Angara-type missile systems.
The sun rises from the East
According to the President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin, 2006 has been a year for Russia to become a year of transition from a stabilization and savings policy to a development policy. The conservation of the Svobodny Cosmodrome, at first glance, did not bother with this statement, nor did it bind with the adopted strategic position that the Far East should become a place attractive for people’s lives, and with the State program to assist the voluntary resettlement of compatriots to Russia. However, already in 2007, it turned out that this was not about minimizing space development in the region, but about launching a much larger and more daring project than one could imagine.
Today, Russia has started to create not just one more point of launching vehicles - on the site of the former unprofitable landfill, a new, modern, full-fledged space center is growing. And despite the skeptical grin of those who, after hearing the phrase "innovation center", immediately recalls Skolkovo, the prospects of this center allow putting it on a par with the most promising projects of our time.
As the main options for locating the cosmodrome, the Eastern Independent Commission selected two - the Amur village of Uglegorsk and Sovetskaya Gavan (Khabarovsk Territory). Priority was given to Uglegorsk due to lower seismicity, better flight trajectory, more developed rail service and cost savings. The site in the Khabarovsk Territory would have cost 380 billion rubles, while the cost of the Amur is about 250 billion.
In the case of a launch from the territory of the Khabarovsk Territory there would be an extremely high risk of rocket parts entering the territory of neighboring Japan. The oil-producing objects of the Sakhalin region could be hit. Naturally, this would lead to destruction, victims and, possibly, even international scandals. When launching rockets in the Amur region, the flight trajectory passes over a relatively deserted territory. The latitude of the site, which is being built near Uglegorsk, almost coincides with the latitude of the Baikonur cosmodrome.
The basic task of the new space center is the implementation of promising projects in the field of launch vehicles and new spacecrafts for various purposes, as well as the development and production of rocket engines, the power of which should exceed the power of existing ones by an order of magnitude.
Now the population of Uglegorsk, a small urban village in the Amur region, is less than 6 thousand inhabitants. However, for 10 years on the site of the village should build a city in which 25 thousand people can reside. The majority of the able-bodied population is expected to be involved in the maintenance of the cosmodrome.
Today, in many respects, it is precisely near Uglegorsk that the question of whether the Far East of Russia will become a raw materials appendage of the West and Japan with China or an outpost of Russian development will be resolved. And allowed, it seems, in our favor.