UAE to help refurbish world’s oldest spaceport in Baikonur

Three countries have signed an agreement to upgrade the spaceport where world’s first man Yuri Gagarin launched to space from

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The UAE will work together with Russia and Kazakhstan to upgrade the world’s oldest spaceport in Baikonur.

A letter of intent between the UAE Space Agency, Roscosmos and Kazakhstan’s aerospace committee was signed at the Dubai Airshow on Monday.

The Gagarin’s Start launch pad, also known as Site 1, is where Yuri Gagarin was launched from in 1961, making him the first man in space and setting off the first space exploration era.

Hazza Al Mansouri, the first Emirati in space, and his crew members were the last to take off from the spaceport in 2019.

DubaiSat-1, the UAE’s first Earth observation satellite, was also launched from Site 1 in 2009.

“This is all three governments committing to upgrade and pursuing this specifically from an economical perspective, especially given that all three countries really have a sentimental link to the location,” said Ibrahim Al Qasim, deputy director general of the UAE Space Agency.

Baikonur is a city in Kazakhstan that has been leased to Russia until 2050 to help the country continue its decades-old space programme.

Kazakhstan was part of the former Soviet Union and the Baikonur Cosmodrome was built by the Soviets for their space programme.

The modernisation of the spaceport involves reconstructing the site to allow for more launches, including commercial and human space flights to the International Space Station.

As part of the agreement, all three parties will bring investors forward to contribute towards the upgrade.

“The UAE space agency is not investing or facilitating as the government. We're looking for private partners within the UAE to partake. There’s a lot of interest,” Mr Al Qasim said.

Updated: November 16, 2021, 3:25 PM