The Russian Space Agency: First in Putting People Into Space


After the breakup of the Soviet Union and the formation of the Russian Federation, the Russian Federal Space Agency, formerly the Russian Aviation and Space Agency, was founded on February 25, 1992 to replace the Soviet Space Program. The Russian Federal Space Agency, or Roscosmos, oversees the civilian space program, aerospace research and science, and all manned and unmanned civilian space flights. Roscosmos has headquarters in Moscow, Mission Control operations center in Korolev, the Gagarin Scientific, Research, and Cosmonaut Training Center in Star City, and launch facilities in Kazakhstan. Roscosmos’s Mission Control Center for the International Space Station is located in Korolyov. The agency has an annual operating budget of between $2 and $3 billion.

After the United States, Russia is the largest contributor to the International Space Station program. Russia constructed and launched Zarya and Zvezda, core space modules that provides power, guidance, life support systems, and living quarters, propulsion, and storage for the ISS. Roscosmos is also responsible for the construction and launch of the Multipurpose Laboratory Module and the Docking Cargo Module for the ISS. Russia also provides crew launches for the ISS using Soyuz-TMA spacecraft and resupply missions for the ISS using Progress space transports.

Roscosmos performs half of all global commercial satellite launches. Current Roscosmos scientific and research programs include the Luna-Glob moon orbiter, the Venera-D Venus lander, and the Phobos-Grunt Mars mission. Roscosmos is also developing a new rocket system, the Angara, and modifying to the Soyuz rocket.

Russia has partnered with Space Adventures, a United States-based private space tourism firm, to provide transportation for space tourists to the International Space Station. Roscosmos provides transportation for tourists using Soyuz spacecraft, with the first tourist launch occurring in 2001. Space tourists receive much of their required six months of training at the Gregarin Cosmonaut Training Center. Space tourism launches occur when there is room on the ISS.

Roscosmos is a federal executive agency and is governed by a director, five deputy directors, and a board. The agency has 11 departments: Manned Programs, Composite Management of Space Activity Organization, International Cooperation, Automotive Nonterrestrial Complexes and Control Systems, Space Navigation Systems, Communication and Terrestrial Control Complexes, Rocket Engineering, Launching Systems, Ground Equipment and Cooperation Connections, Baikonur Launch Site, and Program Financing, Accounting, and Administration. Roscosmos presents a budget and lobbies the federal government for funding. Fifty to 55 percent of the Agency’s budget funds research and development. This includes the development, manufacture, and testing of new space equipment. After the economic difficulties of the 1990s cut the Russian space budget and led to the obsolescence of much of its equipment, recent budget increases have gone to developing new technology. Enhancements to the Soyuz rocket system and development of new systems to carry human beings into orbit consume a large percentage of the Roscosmos budget. Roscosmos plans to build a fifth Soyuz vehicle in order to increase the number of people it can put into orbit and send to the International Space Station.

The Russian Federal Space Agency’s launch facilities are located at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. The Baikonur Cosmodrome was the site of Soviet launch facilities and is now maintained through a partnership between the Kazakh government and Roscosmos. This complex is located 200 miles from the mining town of Baikonur, near Tyuratam. The Baikonur facility has one Proton launch complex for international launches and one for Russian military space launches. All Russian geostationary, lunar, and planetary or ocean surveillance missions launch from Baikonur, as do manned missions. The Plesetsk Cosmodrome, located in Arkhangelsk Oblast in northwest Russia, is the site of military satellite and some rocket launches, although it is not suitable for geostationary or low inclination launches because of its high latitude.

Roscosmos collaborates with the Russian Space Forces, part of the Russian Armed Services. The Russian Space Forces were founded on March 24, 2001 and the Space Forces Headquarters and Control Center took command over all military space forces and assets on June 1, 2001. The Space Forces are responsible for missile warning systems, anti-missile defense systems, spaceflight control, military satellite launches and communications, and other strategic space defense missions. A major point of collaboration between the two agencies is the Global Navigation Satellite System, or GLONASS.

Roscosmos plans to build a new space launch facility, the Vostochny Cosmodrome, in the Amur Oblast, in the Russian Far East. The Vostochny Cosmodrome will replace the Baikonur Cosmodrome as the primary civilian space launch site for manned and unmanned spacecraft. Roscosmos also plans to launch a probe to study the moon’s surface using a neutron generator and a mission to Mars. Roscosmos is considering partnering with the United States and other countries on an asteroid defense system. Longer-range plans include a possible base or space station on the Moon, possibly in collaboration with the United States.