The Vostochny space launch facility in Russia symbolizes Moscow’s ambitious attempt to revive its scientific prowess following the collapse of the Soviet Union. However, this new spaceport has faced numerous challenges, including construction delays and allegations of corruption.
Before the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991, Russia leased the Baikonur cosmodrome from Kazakhstan for its space launches. Despite occasional disputes with Kazakhstan, Russia continued to use Baikonur and still pays $115 million annually for its lease until 2050. In addition, the Plesetsk launch pad in northwestern Russia has been utilized for military satellite launches and missile tests.
In 2007, Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the creation of Vostochny on the site of a Soviet-era missile base, but its actual construction did not commence until five years later. Located in a sparsely populated and unexplored region in Russia’s far east, the remoteness of Vostochny has contributed to increased costs and prolonged construction.
The project, which has incurred billions of dollars in expenses, has been marred by ongoing delays, protests by workers demanding unpaid wages, and accusations of widespread corruption. Several high-ranking officials involved in the project were convicted of embezzlement, while the mayor of the town where spaceport workers reside was found guilty of fraud.
While the first launch from Vostochny was completed in 2016, the facility’s full potential has not been realized. The second launch pad, designed for the new Angara rockets, is still under construction and its entry into service has been repeatedly delayed.
As a result, Vostochny has only seen limited use since its inaugural launch. Russia’s Roscosmos state corporation continues to rely on Baikonur for the majority of its space launches. Notably, the Luna-25 mission, an ambitious endeavor to return to the moon after almost 50 years, ended in failure when the probe crashed onto the lunar surface due to a technical glitch.
Despite its troubled history, Vostochny remains a symbol of Russia’s determination to establish its own full-fledged space facility. As construction efforts continue and future launches are planned, it remains to be seen whether Vostochny will regain Russia’s scientific glory.
– Associated Press