MOSCOW ? Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed a decree authorizing construction of a new launch facility on Russian? territory to reduce the nation?s dependency on the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, First Deputy Premier Sergei Ivanov told reporters Nov. 21.

The cosmodrome will be built in the Amur region in Russia?s Far East and will serve the nation?s human and robotic space exploration programs, according to Ivanov.

Ivanov said the cosmodrome will be named Vostochny, or Eastern, and that a feasibility study will be completed by 2010 to pinpoint the exact location. The cosmodrome will be built from 2010 to 2018 with the first launch scheduled to take place in 2018.

At the same time, Ivanov said Russia has no plans to immediately abandon the Baikonur Cosmodrome, which Russia leases from Kazakhstan. Baikonur is used for all Russian launches of crews and cargo to the international space station and most of its launches of geostationary-orbiting satellites.?

Anatoly Perminov, director of the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roskosmos), has said Russia has no plans to abandon Baikonur.

?We will build the new cosmodrome, but initially it will be used along with Baikonur,? Perminov said in remarks posted Nov. 9 on the Roskosmos Web site.

Russia?s other primary launch site is the Plesetsk Cosmodrome in the northern part of the country.