"The surface of the Earth is the shore of the cosmic ocean... Recently, we've managed to wade a little way out, and the water seems inviting." - Carl Sagan
Russia warns Kazakhstan in Baikonur cosmodrome dispute
Russia has warned Kazakhstan it could withdraw from joint projects if Astana insists on restricting satellite launches from Russia’s rented Baikonur cosmodrome, Izvestia daily reported Thursday.
The Russian newspaper, known for its close connections with the Kremlin, published the text of a diplomatic note from Russia a day ahead of a planned meeting between Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and his Kazakh counterpart Yerlan Idrisov in Moscow.
"In the current situation, Russia will be forced to reassess its position on the use of continuing bilateral cooperation on joint projects," Izvestia quoted the Russian foreign ministry as saying, listing joint space projects.
Kazakhstan has restricted the number of permitted commercial satellite launches by Russia in a simmering dispute about the fall zone of debris from the launches.For 2013, it has permitted 12 launches of Proton-M rockets, down from 14 last year.
Sources in the Russian space agency told Izvestia that the restrictions meant tearing up five contracts and returning up to $500 million to clients.
Russia rents the Baikonur cosmodrome from ex-Soviet Kazakhstan, using the complex in the middle of the steppe for military and commercial satellite launches and ferrying astronauts to and from the International Space Station.
Kazakhstan has moved in recent years to assert greater control over Baikonur and over activities at the space base, which Russia rents for around $115 million per year in an agreement drawn up in the 1990s that is valid until 2050.
While the concerns over rocket launches are ostensibly about environmental impact and safety, Kazakhstan is at the same time reminding Russia of its reliance on Baikonur in a dispute over financial and geopolitical issues, commentators say.
Image credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls