Delayed Russian spaceport to be subject to “people’s monitoring”

Russia will subject the country’s most important project to "people’s monitoring" via webcams after the deputy prime minister visited the site and found "much to be desired".

It’s the latest official censure of the builders of the Vostochny Cosmodrome spaceport in the Amur region of Russia’s Far East.

Delays to the project, declared one of national importance by Russian president Vladimir Putin in 2012, prompted deputy prime minister Dmitry Rogozin to take over personal charge of it from Russia’s space agency Roscosmos in September last year.

And in October the former head of a company involved in building the cosmodrome was arrested and charged with embezzling 1.8 billion rubles ($43m) from the project.

Now Rogozin has visited the site again. He told the commission in charge of the project that construction was behind schedule, and that he was dissatisfied with the pace of work, news agency TASS reports today.

"My view after the examination of cosmodrome facilities and talks with representatives of Roscosmos and Spetsstroi (state construction company) is the following: the state of affairs at ‘minimum launch’ facilities leaves much to be desired," he said. "The builders for the present are behind the schedule." 

He acknowledged that cold weather made construction a challenge, but said that should be no excuse because for Russians cold was an ally, not an enemy, TASS reported.

"People’s monitoring" over the construction will now be organised, Rogozin said, with webcams broadcasting to the websites of Roscosmos and the Military-Industrial Commission Collegium. He said citizens would be able to see for themselves how many people are working and the pace of construction.

"This now will cease to be a behind-the-scene affair of those who are in charge of the construction," he said. "So, this will be a kind of ‘people’s monitoring’ over the construction progress."

The spaceport is important for Russia because it currently launches most of its space missions from the Soviet-era Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, from which it rents the facility for $115 million annually.

Photograph: The Vostochny Cosmodrome construction site in Russia’s Far East, October 2014 (Astrowatch)

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