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Vostochny turns from clay to stone in 2013
In 2013, the familiar concrete structure of the giant launch pad for the Soyuz rocket started rising from its foundation in the Vostochny cosmodrome in the Russian Far East. Elsewhere at the future space center, key processing facilities for rockets and spacecraft, as well as transportation arteries were taking shape.
Previous chapter: Vostochny launch site
Above: A satellite view of key facilities in Vostochny cosmodrome in May 2013. (Clickable)
Funding and development activities
As of the beginning of 2013, the Federal space program called for 164 billion rubles ($4.88 billion) to be spent on Vostochny from 2011 to 2015. During 2012, the funding for the project reached 22 billion rubles ($654.3 million), according to the official Interfax news agency. However in July, the ITAR–TASS news agency reported that during a meeting of the parliamentary committee on the industry, its deputy chairman Vladimir Gutenev warned that the underfunding of the Russian space program in 2011 and 2012 had reached 12.5 billion rubles ($357.3 million), which had been specifically allocated for the construction of the launch complex for the Soyuz-2 rocket in Vostochny. To make matters worse, Gutenev also told the Izvestiya daily that the latest estimates had revealed the need for an additional 11.1 billion rubles over the original budget, bringing the total deficit in the Vostochny project to 23.6 billion rubles ($702.5 million). Gutenev estimated that underfunding could delay the completion of the future space center by two, three or even four years.
One major reason that brought the project over budget was the high cost of transporting construction materials from the western part of Russia. The local industries in the Russian Far East could provide less than 30 percent of required construction materials, such as metal, RIA Novosti reported. As a result, the actual expenses factoring-in transportation costs often ended up to be three times higher than projected costs, complained Yuri Khrizman, the head of GUSS Dalspesstroi. (GUSS Dalspetsstroi is the Far Eastern division of the Special construction agency, Spetsstroi, of the Russian Ministry of Defense.) In addition to metal rods for reinforced concrete, the launch pad required 3.5 thousand cubic meters of the expanded clay aggregate that had to be transported from the Moscow region. Still, Khrizman characterized the ongoing construction pace as "good."
In the end, Khrizman did lose his job, while government officials blamed him for supplying "incomplete" information on the status of the project. Aleksandr Volosov was appointed to lead Spetsstroi.
On January 31, the head of Roskosmos Vladimir Popovkin visited Vostochny, prompting Spetsstroi to issue a press-release on its planned activities in Vostochny during 2013. The company promised to build 15 kilometers of railways inside the space center, to upgrade the Ledyanaya train station at the junction between the spaceport's main rail line and the federal railway. Another train station would be built in Uglegorsk, the main residential area of the launch site. Spetsstroi also promised to complete the first phase of the power supply grid. The company also started work on the new water facility, the 2nd phase of railway construction and the 2nd phase of power grid expansion. By the end of the year, 7,000 people would work at the site, Spetsstroi said.
Also at the beginning of 2013, local media reported that according to the Dalspetsstroi division the number of workers at the site was expected to increase from the current 2,500 to 5,000 people by the middle of the year. According to the organization, around a half of workers came from local towns. The official brochure published by Roskosmos in 2013 claimed that 2,400 out of 4,000 workers were from the Amur Region. (680) In April 2013, the number of construction personnel in Vostochny was quoted at 4,000 and was promised to double during the summer. At the end of April, Spetsstroi announced that 5,000 workers were working at the site, with this number planned to increase to 6,500 during the second quarter and to 10,000 by the end of the year.
However with the summer came massive rains, causing a number of rivers in the Amur Region to overflow and flood vast areas. Although the launch site and its immediate surroundings were not directly affected, the construction in Vostochny was likely to face new delays, as the local workforce and materials had to be diverted to recovery efforts in the flood zone.
According to later reports, floodwaters did manage to inundate the launch facility, but fortunately did not undermine the structure. (778)
On August 21, Vice Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin arrived to the region. He flew over flooded areas and the future launch center in a helicopter. Although admitting the large scale of the disaster, Rogozin was in no mood for giving a break to the construction team. "This is a strategically important facility for Russia and any deviation from the schedule would be considered as criminal negligence," official Russian media quoted Rogozin as saying. He also criticized the Ministry of Regions and Spetsstroi for failing to develop methods for accurate accounting of their expenses on the project in 2012 and 2013. Rogozin demanded that the construction of the Soyuz pad be completed in July 2015 in order to guarantee the first launch in December of the same year.
In November, the new head of Spetsstroi Aleksandr Volosov visited the site. He said that his organization had made a breakthrough in the project. The budget was reportedly in good shape, however Volosov admitted that it was based on very low wages for workers and required reassessment, which would resolve the problem of attracting workers to the site.
According to Spetsstroi, 4,000 workers and 680 vehicles took part in daily construction activities at Vostochny and counting engineering and management personnel, a total of 5,246 people were involved in the project. The engineering personnel counted 500 people.
By the end of 2013, Roskosmos awarded 15 federal contracts worth 120 billion rubles for the development of the Vostochny launch site to the Spetsstroi. Within Spetsstroi, 11 contracts went to its Far-Eastern division, GUSS Dalspetsstroi, and four others to its assembly division known as Spetstroitekhnologii. At the time, Dalspetsstroi was developing 8 facilities out of 11 sites covered by the contracts. In its turn, Spetsstroitekhnologii was working on two sites. In particular, the contractors started building the residential area of the site.
In November, as Volosov was visiting the site, the agency's officials reported that the construction teams had reduced their lag behind schedule from three months in July to just 10 days on 24 out of 33 facilities of the Soyuz launch complex. At the time, the launch pad was growing one floor a month. Some of the buildings around the launch complex were marked for the installation of hardware in February or March 2014. They received a high priority in construction and the installation of their heating and humidity-control systems.
From November 26 to 28, 100 workers using 18 mobile concrete mixers and five pumps during 24-hour shifts put 2,200 cubic meters of concrete into the foundation of the walking gallery of the launch facility connecting the internal rooms of the pad.
Within the Technical complex, TP, where rockets and spacecraft will be assembled and checked before their delivery to the launch pad, the construction was taking place on 18 out of 24 planned facilities.
In September, architects also issued documentation for Vostochny's meteorological facility with a laboratory, however the construction had yet to start as of November.
The space center's industrial site, which includes storage facilities and headquarters, was to be completed by December. (678)
The first phase of automobile roads was completed, however the railway infrastructure was lagging behind due to the huge volume of work.
Next chapter: Vostochny development in 2014
Official milestones in Vostochny development in 2013:
Jan. 31: Head of Roskosmos Vladimir Popovkin visits Vostochny.
April 12: President Vladimir Putin visits Vostochny.
Aug. 21: Vice Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin visits the launch site.
Oct. 21: Vice Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin chairs a meeting in Moscow on the status of construction in Vostochny.
Budget for the Soyuz launch complex and related infrastructure:
Page author: Anatoly Zak; Last update: August 24, 2016
Page editor: Alain Chabot; Last edit: January 20, 2014
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Launch pad for the Soyuz rocket in Vostochny at the beginning of 2013. Click to enlarge. Credit: Roskosmos
Click to enlarge.
The Soyuz pad in Vostochny in December 2013. Click to enlarge.
Headquarters of the space center around April. Click to enlarge. Credit: Roskosmos
On April 12, the Russian president Vladimir Putin revisited Vostochny. Click to enlarge. Credit: Press-service of the Russian president
Along with the launch pad, a state-of-the-art rocket and spacecraft preparation complex is being built in Vostochny during 2013. Click to enlarge. Credit: Dmitry Rogozin
A new industrial and administrative area was also under construction. Click to enlarge. Credit: Dmitry Rogozin