Nizhny Novgorod Region to Host Russia’s First Private Cosmodrome Near Europe

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While Western media attention has turned to the successful launch and successful docking of the privately owned Space X rocket with the International Space Station, much tends to be overlooked when it comes to Russia’s own space exploration and engineering industry. The US owned SpaceX was in fact the first US manufactured rocket and craft to dock with the ISS for eight years – all previous trips to service the space station have been made by Russian spacecraft and rockets.

Now, Russia is also following the path of American privitization of space exploration by planning its first privately owned cosmodrome. The Nizhny Novgorod region of Russia is sited around the Volga River based some 400 km due east from Moscow. The oblast’s capital city is also known as Nizhny Novgorod. From 1930-1990 it was known as Gorky.

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A preliminary agreement on siting the Cosmodrome was apparently signed by the regional administration and the company CosmoCourse last week. The project is to be coordinated with the Russian space agency Roscosmos and a number of related Russian agencies.

Pavel Pushkin, who is Russia’s equivalent of Elon Musk yet with a more mature public image, is the CEO of CosmoCourse, which conducts research into a spacecraft for private suborbital flights. He has previously stated that his company have had plans for building a cosmodrome in central Russia for some time and negotiations on the issue had been held with several regions.

Cosmocourse join the commercial race to provide facilities for satellite launches, a sustainable industry as new technologies are developed and orbiting satellites inevitably breakdown or need repairs. Space tourism is also a potential industry in Russia, the majority of whose citizens remain acutely proud that their nation was the first to put a man into space, Yuri Gagarin, in 1961. The 9th March is the 85th anniversary of Gagarins’ birth.

Russia also has another state owned cosmodrome at Vostochny in Amursk Oblast in Russia’s Far East, while many of its Soyez rockets are launched from a number of sites in Kazakhstan. The Cosmocourse cosmodrome will be the nearest such facility to Europe, a distance of about 1,800 km. Being a civil owned facility it could develop into a tourist attraction in its own right, and along with Vostochy, is intended to offer alternatives to Kazak launches.

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