KAZAKHSTAN -- The Soyuz MS-08 spacecraft for the next International Space Station (ISS) crew, consisting of astronauts Drew Feustel and Ricky Arnold of the U.S and crewmate Oleg Artemyev of Russia, is transported from an assembling hangar to the launchpad
Kazakh authorities have impounded the property of Russia's main operator of spacecraft launching sites in Baikonur (Baiqonyr) in the Central Asian nation's southern region of Qyzylorda.
Kazakhstan’s bailiff service banned Russia's Space Infrastructure Center from transferring its assets and property out of the country and ordered the entity's leader to remain in Kazakhstan, The Moscow Times newspaper reported on March 14.
According to the media outlet, the decision was made due to the Russian state company's debt of 13.5 billion tenges ($29.7 million) to the Baiterek Kazakh-Russian joint venture for work related to estimating ecological damage caused by Souyz-5 rockets. Baiterek was created in 2005 to secure the gradual move of launches to ecologically safe rockets while abolishing Proton rockets that use highly toxic heptyl fuel. Kazakhstan’s move to impound the space company's property came days after the chief of Russia's Roskosmos space agency, Yury Borisov, publicly criticized Kazakh Communications Minister Baghdat Musin for his team's decision to postpone the construction of a new spacecraft launch area at Baikonur. Musin called Borisov's criticism " a diplomatic miscalculation." Baikonur space complex was built in the 1950s as a test range for the Soviet Union’s first intercontinental ballistic missile, the R-7. The testing range was subsequently transformed into a spaceport, with the world’s first artificial satellite, Sputnik, launched from the facility on October 4, 1957. The world's first manned space mission by Yuri Gagarin was launched from Baikonur on April 12, 1961. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Russia has continued to use the Baikonur space complex, leasing the site from Kazakhstan since 1994. Trying to reduce its dependence on the Baikonur Cosmodrome for manned rocket launches, Russia started constructing the Vostochny Cosmodrome in the Far Eastern Amur region near the Chinese border in 2012. But that project has been dogged by reports of corruption, with dozens of people involved in the planning and construction of the facility arrested on embezzlement and fraud charges in recent years.