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Meeting on developing the space sector

April 12, 2013, Blagoveshchensk

Vladimir Putin chaired a meeting in Blagoveshchensk on developing Russia’s space sector.

The President said that one of the sector’s basic priorities is to carry out promising projects that will develop new multipurpose spacecraft, and develop new rocket engines much more powerful than those in use today. Developing the technical resource base and producing world-class space technology and systems should be the particular focus of attention, Mr Putin said.

Earlier in the day, the President visited the Vostochny Space Launch Centre.

Opening remarks at a meeting on developing the space sector

President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon, colleagues,

Let me congratulate everyone on Cosmonautics Day. You all have a direct relation to this sector. We have made a particular priority of modernising our economy and developing its innovation dimension over these last years, and the corresponding presidential council in this area is working actively. Today, we will discuss the situation in the space sector, one of our key high-tech sectors.

Since we are meeting on Cosmonautics Day, let me take the opportunity to congratulate once again all current and former workers in this sector on their professional holiday. I want to thank everyone who was at the origins of our country’s space programme and made this unprecedented breakthrough in exploring the universe. And I want to thank everyone who is developing and using this sector’s unique technology today. It is your talent and effort that has made Russia one of the leaders in space exploration for more than 50 years now. 

Russia must remain one of the big space powers in the twenty-first century, this is clear, and the results of our work in the sector should have big practical returns and boost our country’s innovative development and find a broad range of applications in industry, medicine, telecommunications and transport, as well as strengthening our country’s security and making Russia more competitive globally. Developing the space sector therefore remains one of the big state priorities. We will continue to increase the attention we give this sector.

Financing for space programmes in Russia comes to around 181 billion rubles [around $5.9 billion] in 2013. This is more than triple what it was in 2008. We are in third place worldwide after the USA and the European Union for investment in the space sector, and have an almost five-fold lead on the other main space powers when it comes to average annual growth rate of state investment in space programmes. These efforts have enabled us to complete deployment of the GLONASS system and fulfil all of our obligations with regard to building and operating the International Space Station.

There are certainly still a number of unresolved problems that are holding back the sector’s development. They built up over the years when our country did not have the means to invest in the space programme and was forced to just keep drawing on the resources built up during the Soviet period. Fortunately, this was a solid resource and it enabled Russia to stay among the leaders. Russia’s Proton and Soyuz launch vehicles and other rockets carry out 35–40 percent of all space launches around the world today. But a substantial part of our rockets and equipment has nonetheless aged considerably, and more than 80 percent of the electronic components are produced abroad. There is practically no incentives or mechanisms for the sector’s innovative development.

The experts predict that demand for space goods and services and joint research will grow steadily over the coming years. This market is already worth $300–400 billion, but by 2030 it could be worth $1.5 trillion. Of course we must make full use of this window of opportunity, all the more so as we are in a good position and can draw on the resources already developed by our past generations of scientists, engineers, technicians and workers. The state authorities have earmarked around 1.6 trillion rubles for the space sector over the 2013–2020 period. This money will finance the relevant state programmes in the sector. The focus must be on the most promising applied science and technology.

Today, we will examine the basics of our state policy in the space sector through to 2030 and beyond. The policy document sets out the main priorities, one of which is bringing the Vostochny space launch centre into operation. Russia needs to have its own reliable site for carrying out the whole range of space-related activities. 

Earlier today we inspected the construction site. The first rocket launches are scheduled to take place in 2015, and Vostochny should be fully operational by 2020. This means that we will be able to use it to launch orbital station modules and interplanetary vehicles for studying and developing the Moon, Mars, and other planets.

Particular care went into the site’s selection. I set up a working group for this purpose. We examined several sites, including on the Pacific coast. But taking into account our American partners’ experience with Cape Canaveral, where bad weather creates big interruptions, we finally decided on this site here. The weather conditions are good, with around 300 sunny days a year, the infrastructure is quite well developed and can be further developed, and the geographical location is good. It is on nearly the same latitude as Baikonur. We discussed earlier with Mr Popovkin [head of the Federal Space Agency] that the difference will be only around half a degree, and so this is a good site.

The site will become a major link in Russia’s aviation and space sector and a powerful innovative centre for developing the whole country and the Far East. It will help us to carry out projects that will address many technical and economic objectives, and will also advance fundamental and applied research in physics, chemistry, biology, and other scientific fields.

Another key task is to promote breakthrough development in applied fields in Russian cosmonautics. We put the emphasis on manned projects for a long time. They accounted for 40–58 percent of the space programme’s budget over various years, often to the detriment of work in other areas. As a result, we have fallen behind in a number of fields, for example, in Earth remote sensing, personal satellite communication systems, search and rescue satellites, and so on. We now lag noticeably behind in technology for use in deep space research. Of course we must maintain the results we have achieved in manned space flights, but we also need to develop our level in the other areas I just mentioned.

The third basic task is to carry out promising projects in the areas of launch vehicles and multipurpose space craft, and also develop and manufacture rocket engines much more powerful than the ones currently in use.

We need to focus particularly on developing the technical resource base so as to be able to produce world-standard space equipment and technology, and we need to ensure good conditions for companies acting as operators of applied space systems.

Our fourth priority is to increase the size of our satellite clusters in orbit. The Russian clusters for social and economic use currently lag noticeably behind those of other space powers.

Our fifth priority is to be more active in encouraging new scientific and engineering personnel into the space sector. Above all, we need to encourage talented young people into the sector, and this means giving them the necessary conditions for professional growth, decent wages, social guarantees, and developing a system of scientific grants, here at Vostochny too. I talked about this today with Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin, and I ask the Government to keep this in mind. This site must become not just a space launch centre, but also a scientific centre with all the conditions needed for comfortable life. Of course it will need to have a good medical centre, scientific facilities, and also sports, cultural and leisure facilities so that people live comfortably here and will want to come here to work. 

As we know, the rocket and space sector is science-intensive. We therefore need to pay particular attention to science personnel, to the people with various scientific qualifications.

Finally, one very important task is that we need to give the sector an overall management structure that will enable it to reach the goals we set. Of course, an organisational structure already exists, but we have spoken a lot of late about the need to improve it. Let’s discuss this too, today. Work is already underway in this area. I would like to hear the proposals so that we can discuss them and make the needed decisions.


Vladimir Putin: Let me add just a couple more words. First, on the organisational structure, we do have different ministries that don’t have a particular complex they oversee. Some ministries work only or almost only on methodology. In the space sector, almost everything is in state hands, or the state has a controlling stake. I don’t rule it out therefore [creation of a new comprehensive agency], but I ask Mr Rogozin, the Prime Minister, and the entire Government to reflect on this again. It could be possible in principle to establish a ministry in this area. The first stage of course would be to ensure it has the right people. This is obvious.

As for incentives, we need incentives of course, for those working in the sector, and for your agency too.

Finally, you heard the proposal to name the future town here in honour of Tsiolkovsky. Are there any objections? No objections? Then we will request the Governor accordingly and hand over the documents — documents recording Tsiolkovsky’s first research — that could be used for a future museum here and give the town a good moral and historical start. Of course, the Governor will need to consult with the people living in the surrounding area. 


April 12, 2013, Blagoveshchensk