Tuesday, June 05, 2012

State Politics Delays exactEarth Baikonur Launch

Satnews.com is reporting that the launch of the exactEarth 1 (EV1) automatic identification system (AIS) micro-satellite has been delayed until the "conclusion of current negotiations between Russian and Kazakh officials over drop zone issues."

The micro-satellite, manufactured by Com Dev International subsidiary exactEarth LLP is one of a series of four micro-satellites the company plans to launch in 2012 and 2013. The firm provides a global vessel monitoring and tracking service based on satellite AIS detection technology.

According to the June 4th, 2012 Satnews Daily article "exactEarth... Imminent Integration (Satellites)" the micro-satellite "has arrived at the launch site in Baikonur, Kazakhstan, and is ready for integration into the Soyuz launch vehicle" but the original launch date will be delayed and no new launch date has so far been announced. 

That launch my not happen anytime soon.

Kazakh president Nursultan Nazarbayev.
As outlined in the May 30th, 2012 Space Daily article "Russia, Kazakhstan in Deadlock Over Rocket Launches" the disagreement between Russia and Kazakhstan is longstanding and any potential solution could require the two sides to sign an addition to the 1994 Baikonur rent agreement, which would then need to be ratified by the Kazakh parliament.

According to the article:
Failure to sign the document already prevented Russia from launching a European weather monitoring satellite MetOp-B on May 23, and will most likely jeopardize a cluster launch of Belarusian, Canadian, German and two Russian satellites on June 7 and the launch of Russian satellite Resurs-P in August.
The context for the disagreement is fascinating and reads like the plot of a cold war spy novel.

In 1994, Russia agreed to terms to rent the Baikonur Cosmodrome, then the primary Russian launch facility and originally a part of the ex-Soviet Union, from a newly independent Kazakhstan for an annual fee of $115 million USD. But the 2007 crash of an unmanned Proton rocket near a city where Kazakh president Nursultan Nazarbayev happened to be visiting seems to have led to a request from Kazakhstan to reopen the negotiations on the agreement.

Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The Russian response to the Kazakh request seems to have been somewhat less nuanced.

According to the November 27th, 2007 Reuters and New Scientist article "Russia to build new cosmodrome on home soil" Russian President Vladimir Putin responded by announcing "a decree that clears the way for the construction of the new (Russian) cosmodrome which will begin hosting launches in 2015."

Since then, the negotiating positions of the two states have been slowly deteriorating and it remains to be seen if anything can be done in the near future to put Russian rocket launches back on any sort of a schedule.

Look for other satellite launch dates to slip as this disagreement begins to escalate.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Support our Patreon Page