Russia has launched an ambitious project to build a new spaceflight center in the country's Far East to replace the Baikonur cosmodrome it has been leasing from Kazakhstan since the collapse of the Soviet Union.
The new space facility will end Russian reliance on Kazakhstan
Russia has broken ground on a new spaceflight center in the country's remote Amur region, which it intends to use for future manned space-flight missions.
"Russia aims to begin launching manned rockets from its new Vostochny cosmodrome as early as 2018," said Prime Minister Vladimir Putin on Saturday, August 28, while touring the site.
The construction of the Vostochny facility, Putin said, was "one of the most ambitious projects in modern Russia." He stressed the "strategic need" for the country to have a modern launch facility on its own territory.
The new space center should be ready to launch satellites and cargo rockets to the International Space Station in 2015 before the first manned spaceflights begin, the prime minister said.
Russia sees a big future in manned spaceflight
The government is investing 640 million euros ($800 million) in the project to ensure its future autonomy for spaceflight activities.
Russia currently uses the Soviet-built Baikonur launch facility in Kazakhstan for all of its manned spaceflight and commercial missions. A small center in northern Russia is used for military satellite launches.
Russia has been leasing the Baikonur site from Kazakhstan, since the break-up of the Soviet Union, for 90 million euros a year. The lease expires in 2050.
The new Vostochny launch site is located 5,800 kilometers (3,600 miles) east of Moscow and barely a hundred kilometers north of the Chinese border.
Author: Gregg Benzow (AP/AFP)
Editor: Toma Tasovac