Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Russia Cosmodrome FDC

Russia FDC
Name: The 50th anniversary of "Plesetsk" cosmodrome
Issue date: 2007 July 2nd

Plesetsk Cosmodrome is a Russian spaceport, located in Arkhangelsk Oblast, about 800 km north of Moscow and south of Arkhangelsk.

It was originally developed by the Soviet Union as a launch site for intercontinental ballistic missiles. Construction started in 1957 and it was declared operational for R-7 rockets in December 1959. The urban-type settlement of Plesetsk in Arkhangelsk Oblast had a railway station, essential for the transport of missile components. A new town for the support of the facility was named Mirny, Russian for "peaceful". By 1997, more than 1,500 launches to space had been made from the site, more than for any other launch facility, although the usage has declined significantly since the breakup of the Soviet Union.

The existence of Plesetsk Cosmodrome was originally kept secret, but it was discovered by British physics teacher Geoffrey Perry and his students, who carefully analyzed the orbit of the Cosmos 112 satellite in 1966 and deduced it had not been launched from Baikonur Cosmodrome. After the end of the Cold War it was learned that the CIA had begun to suspect the existence of an ICBM launch site at Plesetsk in the late 1950s. The Soviet Union did not officially admit the existence of Plesetsk Cosmodrome until 1983.

Plesetsk is used especially for military satellites placed into high inclination and polar orbits since the range for falling debris is clear to the north which is largely uninhabited arctic and polar terrain. It is situated in a region of taiga, or flat terrain with boreal pine forests. Plesetsk may be compared to the U.S. Air Force's Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

The use of the cosmodrome will likely increase in the future since there are concerns with security in operating the Baikonur Cosmodrome in now-independent Kazakhstan, which also demands rent for its continued use. Plesetsk is not ideally suited for low inclination or geostationary launches because of its high latitude (as compared to the Kennedy Space Center, at around 28° north or Guiana Space Center at Kourou, the ESA facility, which is at 5° north). In spite of this, the new all-Russian Angara rocket is designed to be launched primarily from Plesetsk when it comes into service.

Currently, the Soyuz launch vehicle, Cosmos-3M, Rockot and Tsyklon are launched from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome. The heavy Proton and Zenit rockets can only be launched from Baikonur. In May, 2007, a new ICBM, called the RS-24 has been tested and launched there, and is seen as eventually replacing the aging RS-18s and RS-20s that are the backbone of Russia's missile forces. Those missiles are known in the West as the SS-19 Stiletto and the SS-18 Satan.

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