Delays prompt Russian government to take direct control of space centre construction

Frustrated at the pace of progress, Russia’s vice president yesterday took personal charge of construction at Russia’s first heavy rocket-launching facility, the Vostochny cosmodrome in Amur region, in Russia’s Far East.

The final construction stage for the facilities able to launch a super-heavy booster rocket is set for 2016, but the project is now behind schedule, which has provoked warnings from Russian President Vladimir Putin (pictured here at the Vostochny site in 2010).

The cosmodrome construction began in January 2011. The first launch for lighter rockets is to take place in 2015, and the first launch of a piloted spacecraft is set to take place in 2018.

Yesterday Russian news agency RIA Novosti reported that Russia’s space agency Roscosmos will hand over the reins of the construction to the Russian government, with Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin now having direct oversight.

Rogozin said: "The President has been informed of the establishment of a coordinated center within the cosmodrome, the head of which is going to be my Secretariat’s representative from the [Russian] White House, so-called ‘Moscow eye’. It is impossible to coordinate such difficult, multipartite works from the control panel."

RIA Novosti reported that "construction workers have repeatedly said that they are failing to meet the tight deadlines".

"The President has highlighted the personal responsibility of everyone involved in this huge project," vice president Rogozin said. 

He added: "All the parties involved should take a new approach, and to pay attention to every ruble and its effectivity in investment into spaceport… So it is clear that I will not only take personal control of everything, but I will also lead all the works with regards to the Vostochny cosmodrome construction." 

According to English-language newspaper, The Moscow Times, Putin has made cosmodrome the centerpiece of Russia’s efforts to develop the Far East.

The site is also important for Russia’s national security because it would give Russia its own base for launching heavier rockets that can be used to send military satellites into orbit, the newspaper said. Now, Russia leases the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan for $115 million a year.

The Moscow Times reported that Putin has said the project is 30 to 55 days behind schedule, and has warned that the cosmodrome must be ready for its first launches next year. Moreover, the 6,000-strong workforce needs to be doubled, he said.

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