The Kremlin has formally demanded an explanation for comments by the head of the Kazakh space agency about the future of the Baikonur Cosmodrome – the main connection between earth and the International Space Station.
The move is the latest escalation in a growing dispute about rent has led to speculation that Russia could be booted out of the base for good.
Baikonur, a vast complex in the middle of the Kazakh steppe, has been at the heart of Russia's connection with space ever since the beginning of the space race in the 1950s.
It was from here that Yuri Gagarin blasted off on his historic 1961 flight into space. Since the retirement of the Shuttle, Soyuz rockets launched from the base provide the only connection between Earth and the International Space Station.
[. . .]
It is a Russian-speaking city operating under Russian law, with a Russian police force, in the middle of the Kazakhstan. But growing tensions have led some to fear all that may soon come to an end.
Last month Tagat Musarbayev, the head of the Kazakh space agency, said in an address to the country's parliament that Kazakhstan would seek cut the number of launches of Proton-M rockets, which Russia uses to put satellites into orbit. He went on to accuse Moscow of reneging on an agreement to build a new launch center at the base for new Angara rockets, and most significantly called for the leasing agreement on Baikonur to be revised.
[. . .]
Officially, both countries say discussions about the future of the base are "on going." Maintaining Baikonur is identified as a key part of a 2.1 trillion ruble (£43 billion) space program to 2020 signed off by Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev last month.
That has not stopped gloomy speculation amongst industry watchers that Russia may one day have to leave.
Some changes have been made to LiveJournal, and we hope you enjoy them! As we continue to improve the site on a daily basis to make your experience here better and faster, we would greatly appreciate your feedback about these changes. Please let us know what we can do for you!