On the eve of the expiration of the concession of the cosmodrome, Russia and Kazakhstan renew the agreement that leaves Russia with the management of the most important spaceport on Earth.
The story behind this new, historic agreement is not the simplest: less than a year after the event that soon led to the "reunification of the two Germanys" (the Fall of the Berlin Wall, November 9, 1989), 4, 000 km away, the parliament of the Kazakh Soviet Socialist Republic proclaimed independence from the USSR, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, and became the Republic of Kazakhstan.Space Race: a manifesto of Soviet propaganda. |
In the course of the following year the USSR was finally undone and a new political entity emerged, the Russian Federation (or simply "Russia"), with not exactly clear borders, considering the desire for independence of many ex-USSR territories.
For Kazakhstan it was an explosive period, but on the external front it managed to maintain good relations with the new Russia, its quasi-sole trading partner. In Kazakhstan Russia had (and has) various interests, among which the cosmodrome, Baikonur, is perhaps the most important: it is one of the historical symbols of the Space Race (from here departed Jurij Gagarin, the first man to fly into space, in 1961) and, today, it is a "certainty" for many missions in orbit. To date it is in fact the only place in the world from which astronauts leave for the International Space Station, of whatever nationality they are.
It is therefore easy to understand how much Russia is keeping control of the cosmodrome, partly managed by the Roscosmos Space Agency and partly by the Russian Air Force.
The new agreement between the two countries freezes the situation until 2050. The day after the signing (in recent days in St. Petersburg) the Russian Prime Minister declared that there are already 15 launches planned by Baikonur for 2017, while, with a a curious exchange of roles, Andrei Ionin, of the Russian Academy of Cosmonautics, echoed that he stated that in Moscow's plans there are economic and geopolitical goals for which he is ready to pay. There are no rumors about the value of the concession for the economy (or autonomy) of Kazakhstan.