REACH FOR THE STARS

Kazakhstan 2012 | TELECOMS & IT | VIP INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Talgat Musabayev, Chairman of Kazakhstan Space Agency (KazCosmos), on Kazakhstan's space industry, and the future of the Baikonur Cosmodrome.

Kazakhstan has inherited an extensive space legacy from the Soviet Union. How has Kazakhstan's government sought to maintain and upgrade the industry's infrastructure?

Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, Kazakhstan inherited the Baikonur Cosmodrome. Although this facility is located in Kazakhstan, the country can neither maintain nor develop it alone. The operation and development of the cosmodrome is carried out in cooperation with Russia according to two key agreements. The first one, dated March 28, 1994, was signed between the two countries to lay out the basic principles and conditions of use for Baikonur. The second agreement dates back to December 10, 1994, and was signed to lease the complex to the Russian Federation for a period of 20 years until 2014, with a possible extension of the lease term by 10 years until 2024. The initiative to extend the term of the lease until 2050 has come from the Russian side as the country annually invests tens of millions of dollars in infrastructure development and maintenance of the cosmodrome. The Russian Federation intends to continue to invest in the maintenance and development of Baikonur. In this regard, our countries have agreed to work together to ensure the continued effective use of the cosmodrome in the interests of Russia and Kazakhstan through the implementation of international cooperation programs.

Kazakhstan has adopted a very comprehensive space program. How would you assess the significance of this program for the country's quest to become more developed?

Provided Kazakhstan's vast territory and rich resources, space is an area of geopolitical, economic, scientific, and practical interest. Without involvement in space activities, it is extremely difficult to create a common information space, to study and rationally use natural resources, or to conduct environmental monitoring in our country. President Nursultan Nazarbayev has always devoted special attention to the country's space activities, and provides great support. The President has set the task of developing and implementing a phased, long-term program for the creation and development of the space industry. In this regard, for the further development of space activities, KazCosmos designed a sectoral program for the development of space activities for 2010-2014 that aims to create a fully fledged space industry as a high-tech sector that contributes to the acceleration of industrial innovative development in the republic, strengthening national security and defense. In accordance with the industrial program, KazCosmos was set the task of creating and developing our space infrastructure, developing a scientific and technological base, as well as ensuring the right human resources and international cooperation. For the creation of targeted space systems and technologies, the following projects are being undertaken: the creation and launch of a series of communications and broadcasting KazSat satellites, the creation of an Earth remote-sensing space system, the creation of a high-precision satellite navigation system, the creation of an assembly, integration and testing complex for spacecraft, and the development of the national space monitoring system.

“Space is an area of geopolitical, economic, scientific, and practical interest."

Kazakhstan started the construction of its space center in Astana in 2010. What is the status of construction at the moment?

President Nursultan Nazarbayev's visit to France in June 2008 provided strong impetus to the selection of a strategic partner to create projects and promote the use of remote space sensing as well as an assembly and test facility for space vehicles. The assembly, integration and testing complex for spacecraft will create a high-tech enterprise specializing in space technology components and payload elements. This is the only enterprise of its kind in the CIS. During President Nazarbayev's visit to France in October 2010, Kazakhstan signed two contracts with EADS-Astrium, a strategic partner that Kazakhstan will collaborate with in the supply and installation of test sites and services to support the design and construction of spacecraft. For this purpose a joint Kazakhstan-French enterprise “Ghalam" was established. The joint venture will focus on the execution of domestic and international orders for satellites, and will provide the assembly and testing of spacecraft for purposes such as communications, broadcasting, and remote sensing data. In accordance with the founding documents, the contribution of EADS-Astrium in the authorized capital of the joint venture will be 27.5% of the total amount. Also, EADS-Astrium will place orders worth €60 million. The future National Space Center will be located on the left bank near the racetrack in Astana on an area of 30 hectares, and it will house production, research, administrative, and social complexes in addition to a museum and planetarium.

How can KazCosmos' activities in establishing high-accuracy satellite systems contribute not only to space research but also to a better understanding of Kazakhstan's geography and utilization of its natural resources?

Another project concerns the creation of a high-precision satellite navigation system. Such a satellite-navigation system has a strong potential to encourage development in Kazakhstan and can find its application in many areas of human activity. The main consumers of this technology will be the Land Management Agency of Kazakhstan in the fields of geodesy and cartography, and the Ministry of Transport and Communications in increasing the safety and efficiency of vessel traffic, transit traffic, sea transportation, and traffic management. Additionally, the Ministry will see benefits in developing communication systems to ensure safety in the areas of airborne tracking systems, the carriage of hazardous goods, and in construction management. The Ministry of Agriculture will also see benefits.

How does multilateral cooperation benefit your activities? What does each of Kazakhstan's space partners bring to the table?

KazCosmos is actively developing international cooperation with foreign countries and international organizations for the efficient development of its space activities, and is attracting world-class technologies. This will allow Kazakhstan to create a space industry and begin to use space science, engineering, and technology for economic development, safety, and the welfare of its citizens as quickly and effectively as possible. Kazakhstan's main strategic partner is Russia, and two partners cooperate on joint space projects at the Baikonur Cosmodrome. In 2009, a strategic partnership with France was established in the field of space activities. On the basis of an intergovernmental agreement, national company “Kazakhstan Gharysh Sapary" and EADS-Astrium are actively cooperating on two major projects: the creation of a space system for the remote sensing of the territory of Kazakhstan, and the establishment of an assembly and testing facility for spacecraft in Astana. Kazakhstan has signed international cooperation agreements for the exploration and use of outer space for peaceful purposes with the governments and space agencies of Russia, Ukraine, France, Israel, Germany, India, China, Japan, and South Korea. We have conducted meetings and negotiations with potential partners from Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Thailand, with whom relevant agreements were signed. At the present time, KazCosmos is in talks with the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC). In addition, KazCosmos is continuing the development of a satellite technology megaproject. The activities of KazCosmos within the UN Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space will also continue, as well as cooperation within the CIS and other international organizations. An important factor in the development of national space activities and the participation of Kazakhstan in international space cooperation is the access of the country to the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR). Kazakhstan has met all the requirements of the MTCR to accede to international treaties on the non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and has adopted a package of regulations to ensure the effective export control of missile systems, components, and technologies. Currently, work is continuing in this direction.

© The Business Year - January 2012