The new Russian spaceport in the country’s far east, called the Vostochny Cosmodrome, appears almost ready for its first launches.
Ahead of the first satellite launches to be conducted at the site in April, Russia Today sent a drone up to get a view of the new spaceport. The video shows a high-tech space city surrounded on all sides by an infinite snowy wilderness.
The Vostochny Cosmodrome is the brainchild of Russian President Vladimir Putin, who made construction of a new spaceport a top priority. Russia currently leases the Baikonur Cosmodrome from Kazakhstan for most of its space launches, particularly all manned missions to the International Space Station.
The new location certainly adds a few new obstacles for the Russian Federal Space Agency. For one, most of the country’s space industry is based out of Western Russian cities like Moscow and Samara. Both the people and the materials needed for space launches will either have an extremely long commute or they will move into the “modern city” going up around Vostochny, which is designed for over 30,000 scientists, engineers, and workers.
Before Vostochny can take over manned missions, Russia must complete its new Angara rocket, which will be capable of lugging the PTK-NP, a heavier new ship out of the atmosphere. The Siberian forest and surrounding Vostochny as well as the nearby ocean would pose a threat to the rescue of downed space goers, so PTK NP will need to make precision, rocket-powered landings in case of an emergency.
Russia won’t even begin building the launch pad for manned missions at Vostochny until 2018, though it is possible the first manned launch will take place that same year. Another satellite port as well as a pad for “super heavy” payload are also expected to go up at Vostochny for a total of four launch pads at the new location.
The launchpad shown in the drone video will shoot off the traditional Soyuz rockets for missions like delivering satellites into orbit. According to TASS, a Russian news agency, Vostochny has already begun receiving components of the Soyuz rocket and its first payload. The inaugural April launch will ferry into space:
“the Mikhailo Lomonosov satellite designed by students of Moscow Lomonosov State University, the first student nano-satellite SamSat-218 that was designed in the city of Samara, and the Aist-2D satellite for remote sounding of the Earth.”
No word yet on whether having to actually cross into Russia will convince America to revive its own manned capabilities. Maybe NASA is just hoping that by 2018, its astronauts will be able to hitch a ride with Elon Musk.