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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Kazakhstan to Charge Fee for Use of Baikonur

Much to the dismay of Russia's space industry, Kazakhstan plans to start collecting a fee for each commercial launch carried out by Russian companies from the Baikonur Cosmodrome.

Vladimir Shkolnik, Kazakhstan's minister of energy, industry and trade, told parliamentary hearings in the capital, Astana, on Monday that the plan to collect fees has already "gotten under way."

However, a senior official at the Kazakh Energy Ministry's aerospace committee said in an interview that Russian companies will be required to pay anywhere from 3 percent to 5 percent of the money they get for each commercial launch from Baikonur. The official, who asked not to be identified, said the Kazakh side will begin collecting the fee this year.

The official would not disclose how much Kazakhstan expects to collect, but said his committee estimates that Russian companies will earn up to $700 million this year from commercial launches.

The recipient of the funds would be Kazakhstan's state-owned Infrakos. He said this Baikonur-based company, founded three years ago, reports to his committee.

The official stressed that the fee will be paid on top of the $115 million that Russia already pays Kazakhstan every year for leasing Baikonur. The fees will be a separate charge for certain services that Infrakos will help provide for each launch. According to the official, these services would include collecting rocket fragments that fall on Kazakh soil, environmental monitoring after each launch and health checks in those areas where parts of launch vehicles fall.

Infrakos will also use the planned fees to market Russian launches both in Central Asian republics and other countries, the Kazakh official said.

Reached by phone, Konstantin Kreydenko, spokesman for the Russian Aviation and Space Agency, or Rosaviakosmos, said he was unaware of the new fee plan.

But a source close to Rosaviakosmos said in a phone interview that this is precisely the agency set to sign the contract in the deal.

The source cited a copy of the contract drafted by Kazakhstan's aerospace committee and forwarded by a Rosaviakosmos department head, Alexander Kuznetsov, last month to the three companies that account for most of Russia's commercial launches from Baikonur: the Khrunichev State Research and Production Space Center of Moscow, Rocket Space Corporation Energia of Korolyov and TsSKB-Progress of Samara.

Kuznetsov and top managers from the three Russian companies met last month in Moscow to discuss the draft, which says Infrakos will not only collect debris, carry out ecological and health monitoring and market launches, but will also provide legal support to Russian space companies in Kazakhstan.

Reached by phone, an official at a Russian company that acts as a middleman for commercial launches of Russian rockets said he disapproves of the fee.

The official, who asked that neither he nor his company be named, said he doubted that Kazakhstan has "either the experience or resources" to successfully market launches of Russian-made Protons and Soyuzes, already "adequately" marketed abroad, respectively, by U.S.-based International Launch Services and the French company Starsem.