Russia plans manned space launch centre
Two fingers up at Baikonur?
Russia is all set to build a new space launch facility, and has its eye on a completion date in 2015. The announcement is yet more confirmation of the rising temperature of international competition in space exploration, and of Russia's determination to be beholden to no one in its bid to conquer the stars.
According to local newspaper the Rossiiskaya Gazeta, President Putin signed a decree clearing the stage for the new cosmodrome to be built in Russia's Far East region of Amur. It will be the first Russian launch site for manned space missions built within its own borders.
Other space centres exist, but are located in old Soviet territories, and require delicate negotiations to retain access.
For instance, Russia currently holds a lease on the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. But after a Proton rocket crashed in September this year, renewing the lease has proved tricky. It also owns and managed a launch site at Plesetsk, but this is not equipped to handle manned missions.
According to Reuters, First Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov said the launch centre would be called Vostochny, and launches would start in 2015. ®
Russia already has an equatorial launch site, the Zenit Sealaunch project. Zenit SL launched a number of geosyncronous satellites in 2006. They've been down for repairs after a launch failure, but Zenit seems to be competative with Ariane and Proton (also Russian) which are the other two major vehicles.
Manned missions need to reach ISS presumably, so it's not generally important or desirable to put manned missions into equatorial orbits, and therefore not as important to place those facilities on the equator. There is still some energy advantage, but it's less important the more inclined the orbit is.
Why not Heathrow?
Bring in lots of tourists. lots of lolly for the airport authority, lots of export earnings for HMG, lots of capital investment and interest for the bankers. No need for another runway there just to have happy bunnies. Not forgetting the happy hippies. Win, win, win, win, win, win. OK, noise might be an occasional problem, but on balance I think we should bid for it.
Missiles in former USSR
They're SAM sites. You can't do anything offensive with them. Russia would actually have to send jets over Poland to actually be attacked by them.