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Skyrocketing Price Tag Prompts Call for Do-over on Baikonur Overhaul

PARIS — The head of the Kazakh space agency said Dec. 10 that a joint project with Russia to build a new, environmentally friendly launch complex at the Baikonur Cosmodrome has fallen so far behind schedule and over its initial cost estimate that it needs to be redesigned.

In testimony to the Kazakh parliament, Kazcosmos Director Talgat Musabayev said the Baiterek complex has suffered from Russian delays. Its estimated cost has risen more than sevenfold, he said. He did not give a specific figure in his presentation.

Musabayev said reorienting Baiterek to take advantage of the Baikonur infrastructure built for the Russian-Ukrainian Zenit rocket would be much less expensive than the original plan based on Russia’s Angara rocket, now in development.

Musabayev said 66 Kazakh engineers are being trained as part of a strategic cooperation with France and specifically with Astrium, Europe’s largest space hardware manufacturer, which has entered a strategic partnership with Kazcosmos.

Astrium and the Kazakh agency in 2009 signed a contract valued at 230 million euros ($300 million) to build two Earth observation satellites and a satellite integration and test center in Kazakhstan.

Kazakh authorities also have entered into the satellite telecommunication field with the launch of the KazSat-2 satellite. Musabayev said KazSat-2, which was launched in July 2011, currently has booked bandwidth leases with nine Kazakh telecommunications companies that together are using about 46 percent of the satellite’s capacity.

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