Russia Plans to Start Cosmodrome Work in 2011

Theconstruction of a new rocket launch site in Russia's Far East willbegin nextyear, the country's top space official said in a scientific councilmeeting.

Officialshope the Vostochny Cosmodrome will be ready to assume spaceflightduties by2018, giving Russia a domestic spaceport for human space missions toreplacethe BaikonurCosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

AnatolyPerminov, head of the Russian Federal Space Agency, said all decisionshavebeen taken to ensure construction of the cosmodrome starts in 2011.

Perminovmade the comments in a meeting of the Scientific and Technical Council,according to the space agency's press service.

TheRussianspace agency's plans through 2015 call for development of the VostochnyCosmodromein the Amur region of southeast Russia. The new launch site will benear theRussia-China border.

RussianPrime Minister Vladimir Putin announced in July an $800 millionspendingpackage for construction at Vostochny over the next three years, butthatfigure is a fraction of the projected total cost of the facility.

Vostochny,which means eastern in Russian, would host flights of the planned Rus-Mrocket,which engineers are designing to launch a proposed next-generationmannedspacecraft to replace the venerable Soyuzcapsule.

Thepreliminary design contract was awarded to TsSKB-Progress, thestate-controlledproduction center that also builds Soyuz rockets. TsSKB-Progresspresented theresults of their conceptual design work at the Russian space agencycouncilmeeting.

Perminovsaid the Rus-M rocket will become the "core element of the futureRussian space infrastructure." The new booster would come inseveralversions tailored for different types of missions, but officials saythe Rus-Mwill be more capable than the workhorse Soyuz rocket.

Ifthe newspace center and rocket are built, Russia could move its human spacelaunchesfrom Baikonur to Russian territory. Russia has maintained Baikonur in asometimes contentious long-term lease with the Kazakh government sincethe fallof the Soviet Union.

Copyright 2010,all rights reserved.

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Stephen Clark is the Editor of Spaceflight Now, a web-based publication dedicated to covering rocket launches, human spaceflight and exploration. He joined the Spaceflight Now team in 2009 and previously wrote as a senior reporter with the Daily Texan. You can follow Stephen's latest project at and on Twitter.