The Russian government will set aside 25 billion rubles (US$ 820 million) for the construction of a new spaceport in the country’s far east, prime minister Vladimir Putin announced on Monday. The Wostotschnyj (‘Eastern’) cosmodrome in the Amur region close to the Chinese border is to fully replace the Baikonur launch site in the former Soviet republic of Kazakhstan.
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By 2015, Wostotchnyj is to become Russia’s prime spaceport for civilian use and will ensure the full independence of Russia’s manned and unmanned space activities, Putin said during a visit of the S.P. Korolev Rocket and Space Corporation Energia, the largest company of the Russian space industry.
Unmanned spacecraft and cargo flights to the International Space Station are to launch from the new port as soon as 2015. Manned space flight operations could start in 2018.
According to Anatoly Perminov, the head of Russia’s Federal Space Agency, the new site will include a launch complex, a runway for space shuttles, a production facility for liquid oxygen, and a hydrogen power plant. The main construction work is planned to take place in 2012. Once completed, the launch site and facilities will employ up to 30,000 specialists, he said.
Russia will in 2010 invest a record 67 billon rubles (US$ 2.2 billion) in its national space programme, Putin said on Monday.
Image: Statue of Yuri Gagarin, the first human in space, Moscow (Q. Schiermeier)