The story about upcoming space launches from the Dombarovsky ICBM site brought a question from a reader - Doesn't the START Treaty prohibit co-locating space launch facilities and ICBM sites? As it turned out, yes, it does - Article IV.4(a) of the treaty says:

"Each Party shall limit the number of space launch facilities to no more than five, unless otherwise agreed. Space launch facilities shall not overlap ICBM bases."

One way around this ban would be to stretch definitions of a "space launch facility", "ICBM base" (or that of "overlap", for that matter). The first one is relatively easy - the treaty defines space launch facility as a "specified facility from which objects are delivered into the upper atmosphere or space using ICBMs or SLBMs." This facility could be as small as a single launch pad or silo, not overlapping with much of anything.

The other definition, however, does not leave much room for stretching - according to the treaty, an ICBM base (for silo-based missiles) is "an area in which one or more groups of silo launchers of ICBMs and one associated maintenance facility are located."

Here is how the Dombarovsky base looks like (map of the area is from


The map shows the 52 silos that were listed as active in July 2004. The maintenance facility is most likely located in Yasnyy. As we can see, about any silo group would overlap with the rest of the base. The only exceptions would probably be the southernmost Dombarovsky-3 group and the northermost Dombarovsky-7. In fact, from the Kommersant report we known that one of the silo groups had already had its missiles removed - it said that there are only 46 missiles currently deployed there. But we will have to wait until the MOU data are released to see which one it is.

In any event, the issue will have to be taken to the Joint Compliance and Inspection Commission and very much will depend on what the meaning of "overlap" is. My guess is that the United States will give Russia some leeway on that and will not try to block space launches from Dombarovsky. But we will see.