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Russia plans manned space launch centre

Two fingers up at Baikonur?

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Russia is all set to build a new space launch facility, and has its eye on a completion date in 2015. The announcement is yet more confirmation of the rising temperature of international competition in space exploration, and of Russia's determination to be beholden to no one in its bid to conquer the stars.

According to local newspaper the Rossiiskaya Gazeta, President Putin signed a decree clearing the stage for the new cosmodrome to be built in Russia's Far East region of Amur. It will be the first Russian launch site for manned space missions built within its own borders.

Other space centres exist, but are located in old Soviet territories, and require delicate negotiations to retain access.

For instance, Russia currently holds a lease on the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. But after a Proton rocket crashed in September this year, renewing the lease has proved tricky. It also owns and managed a launch site at Plesetsk, but this is not equipped to handle manned missions.

According to Reuters, First Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov said the launch centre would be called Vostochny, and launches would start in 2015. ®

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