Russian Defense Cuts Could Affect Space

Alexey Komarov/Moscow kom@ato.ru

Michael Taverna Mike_taverna@aviationweek.com

MOSCOW Michael A. Taverna mike_taverna@aviationweek.com

A reduction in defense spending being considered under a revised federal budget plan threatens key Russian launcher and satellite navigation projects, even though space budgets are not expected to be impacted by the new plan.

President Vladimir Putin has assured government and industry space officials that the revised 2009 draft budget, intended to take into account the worsening economic downturn, contemplates no reduction in allotments for the development of new space projects. Almost 82 billion rubles ($2.4 billion) is to be allocated for three programs, Putin said, without saying which ones. However, he said the new Angara launcher would be among the priority programs, along with communication, navigation and remote Earth sensing spacecraft development.

However, the plan, to be presented to the Russian parliament next week, envisions cuts in defense outlays that could severely affect some elements of the space program. Among the potential victims of the plan, which would roll back defense spending from 1.3 trillion rubles to 1.19 trillion rubles, are the new Vostochny spaceport to be built in the Amur region of Russia's Far East, a launch pad for Angara being constructed at the Plesetsk cosmodrome in northern Russia and enhancements to the Glonass navigation satellite system.

The defense budget line for spaceports alone could drop by 4.5 billion rubles, industry officials say.

The 1.5-25-metric ton lift Angara family of modular launchers is intended to replace Russia's current launcher line with advanced designs that are relatively inexpensive to operate and use environmentally friendly oxygen-kerosene. The first variant, a light booster for low-Earth-orbit missions, will replace existing ICBM derivatives whose shelf life and suitability for commercial applications is limited. It is scheduled to be introduced in 2011. A heavy-lift version, due to follow towards the end of the same year, will complement and eventually replace the Proton line.

Khrunichev State Research and Production Space Center, which is leading Angara development, will soon will receive an 8 billion ruble capital injection to help it ride through the crisis.

Angara development is proceeding according to schedule, Khrunichev's first deputy head, Vasily Sychyov, said at the budget meeting. However, Khrunichev boss Vladimir Nesterov believes additional funding will be required for the test program and to complete the new Plesetsk pad. Nesterov says he asked the government for 3 billion rubles this year, 5.7 billion rubles in 2010 and 1.4 billion rubles in 2011.

National space agency Roscosmos plans to develop a comprehensive plan for construction of the new Vostochni space center, which is intended to consolidate various government manned and unmanned launch activities. The cosmodrome is expected to perform its first launch in 2015 and its first manned spacecraft mission in 2018.

The threatened budget cuts for Glonass are surprising because the program has been considered a top priority for both defense and commercial applications. The revised defense budget draft suggests Glonass spending will be reduced to 4.5 billion rubles. The cuts are expected to affect the ground segment and certain aspects of the Glonass-K new-generation satellite. Glonass-K is to provide a service life of up to 15 years, more than twice Glonass-M's 7-year guaranteed lifetime.

Roscosmos is planning to orbit six existing Glonass-M spacecraft this year and five next year. The first Glonass-K is scheduled to be added to the constellation in 2010, too, which would bring total number of operational satellites to 24.

Photo credit: Krunichev

◄ Share this news!

Bookmark and Share


The Manhattan Reporter

Recently Added

Recently Commented