Space: November 4, 2004
Russia will now launch all of its military satellites from its Plesetsk facility, near the Arctic circle. While Plesetsks location is good for some types of launches (high inclination, polar, and highly elliptical orbits), the place is frozen most of the year, and more expensive to operate because of the weather. But since the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991, the other major launch site, Baikonur, is in the newly minted Central Asian nation of Kazakhstan, has become more expensive and difficult to use. Russia has leased the Baikonur complex from Kazakhstan since 1991, but this has already led to some disputes over lease terms, and the danger to locals from launch accidents. The Russians need the Baikonur launch site, as it is very efficient for some types of launchers (geostationary, lunar, planetary, and ocean surveillance missions, as well as all manned missions). So, to be on the safe side, all military launches will move north. Plesetsk is currently the worlds busiest launch center, and has averaged about 35 launches a year since 1966.