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Russia confirms shiny new cosmodrome

$800m facility to give 'full independence of space activities'

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Russia will guarantee its full space independence with a new cosmodrome in the country's far eastern Amur region, the BBC reports.

Prime minister Vladimir Putin has confirmed that the $800m facility - first announced back in 2007 - should be up and running by 2015. The chosen site is close to the town of Uglegorsk, some 100km from China's northern border.

He said: "The government has made a decision to earmark 24.7 billion rubles over the next three years for the start of the full-blown construction of the Vostochny ["Eastern"] cosmodrome."

Putin stressed the non-military nature of the project, and indicated that Russia is keen to cut its reliance on Kazakhstan's Baikonur spaceport. He explained: "I very much expect that Vostochny will become the first national cosmodrome for civilian purposes and will guarantee Russia full independence of space activities."

The first deputy chief of Russian space agency Roscosmos, Viktor Remishevsky, agreed that the site "was meant to ensure stability of the Russian space industry by giving the country independent access to space".

Roscosmos head Anatoly Perminov said Vostochny cosmodrome would be smaller than Baikonur and less expensive. It will, however, cover 700 sq km and require the efforts of 30,000 construction specialists to put together the launch pads, plus "a high-tech residential compound and research laboratories".

Main building work on Vostochny is scheduled to kick off in 2012, with the inaugural unmanned launch as soon as it's completed in 2015, followed by the first manned lift-off in 2018. ®

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