Will Putin's space project be successful

Vladimir Putin is known to sometimes keep others waiting. However, he is not used to being kept waiting. The Russian president had traveled to the Amur region, 8,000 kilometers east of the capital, to be there for the first launch of a rocket from the new Vostochny spaceport. But the countdown, which was actually scheduled for Wednesday morning at 4:01 a.m. Central European Time, was interrupted at the last minute and the start was postponed by 24 hours.

Putin stayed there so long to personally monitor how the engineers look for the faults, Russian media reported. When it turned out that a fault in a cable had caused the breakdown and the Soyuz 2 Finally took off on Thursday morning in a ball of fire and smoke, the time had come for Putin to take to the air. Andrei Kolesnikov, Putin's favorite reporter and something like his court clerk, reported that the president had summoned Vice Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin and the head of the Roscosmos space agency into a building on the launch site and gave them a rub Kommersant.

Putin issued a warning to Rogozin, who is responsible for armaments and space travel, and a "strict warning" to the Roskosmos boss, Kolesnikov reported. It was not the postponement of the start that angered the president, but the cause: one and a half minutes before the end of the countdown, the control systems reported a defect in a fuel flap. After a detailed check it should have turned out that the flap was in order, the defect was either in the cable that led to the flap or in the soldering point - "a prime example of sloppiness".

Critics in Moscow mocked why Rogozin was being reprimanded for a defective solder joint, but not for the scandals about unpaid wages and missing billions of rubles that have accompanied the project in Russia's Far East for almost ten years. In 2007, Putin ordered the construction of a new space center, which will initially be operated in parallel with the Baikonur Cosmodrome. From there, Yuri Gagarin was the first person to take off into space on April 12, 1961. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Baikonur remained on Kazakh territory. Russia pays Kazakhstan an annual rent of $ 115 million for its use. Last year 18 rockets were launched from there. The contract runs until 2050, but Moscow wants to make itself independent of the political economy in the neighboring country. The Kazakh president is 75 years old, what will follow him is unclear.

Because of the crisis, Moscow had to cut its space program severely

But greater independence comes at a price. The infrastructure for Vostotschny had to be rebuilt: a 300 square kilometer aisle was cut into the taiga, 115 kilometers of roads were built, and 125 kilometers of rails laid. Rocket parts and satellites have to be transported thousands of kilometers from the factories in the west of the country to the almost deserted region on the border with China. The site is also six degrees further north than Baikonur. The closer a launch site is to the equator, the better a rocket can use the momentum of the earth's rotation - and thus save fuel and transport heavier loads.

Because of the economic crisis, Moscow recently had to severely cut its space program. Two years ago, Vice Prime Minister Rogozin raved about the Russian conquest of space. In an article that the government newspaper Rossiyskaya Gazeta published in April 2014 on the anniversary of Gagarin's first flight, Rogozin sketched the utopia that Russia would expand its presence in extended earth orbit, colonize the moon and finally conquer Mars and other objects of the solar system.

But reaching for the stars is being postponed. In May 2015, Rogozin warned in parliament that Russia threatened to lose its leading role in space travel if it did not invest generously. It didn't help: the new ten-year plan for space travel lacks manned lunar flights and a mission to Mars. It was not the first time that the inauguration of Vostochny had to be postponed. The first start was actually planned for Christmas 2015.

Construction work will continue after the maiden flight. The cosmodrome is not scheduled to begin regular operations until 2018 - with up to ten starts of Soyuz-2Missiles annually. A launch pad for the heavy missile of the type Angara should be completed by 2023. This would also make manned flights possible.

Until then, one has to fear that the major construction site will continue to produce major scandals. After 80 workers went on strike last year because they had not received a wage for four months, Putin promised to bring order. Not an easy task with 130 subcontractors involved. Orders were placed overpriced, billions of rubles disappeared. Six criminal proceedings are ongoing, and during his visit Putin threatened new ones: Those who had embezzled money should be prepared to "exchange their warm bed for a prison bunk".