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Russia earmarks 800 million dollars for new spaceport: Putin

by Staff Writers
Moscow (AFP) July 19, 2010
Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said Monday Russia would earmark 800 million dollars to kick off the construction of a new cosmodrome to ease its dependence on a Soviet-era launch site in Kazakhstan.

"The government has made a decision to earmark 24.7 billion rubles (809 million dollars, 623 millon euro) over the next three years for the start of the full-blown construction of the Vostochny cosmodrome," Putin said in televised remarks at a government meeting.

Russia rents its main Soviet-era spaceport Baikonur from neighbouring Kazakhstan. It has said it wants to build a new one near the town of Uglegorsk in the Far Eastern Amur region and it should come online by 2015.

"I very much expect that Vostochny will become the first national cosmodrome for civilian use and guarantee Russia complete independence of space activities," Putin said at the Energia Rocket and Space Corporation, the country's main maker of spacecraft.

"It is important that the cosmodrome will effectively ensure the operation of all promising space projects," including planned interplanetary flights, Putin said.

All in all, Russia will put aside nearly 100 billion rubles for its space industry, including the development of GLONASS, its answer to the US Global Positioning System (GPS), this year, Putin said.

Separately, the premier said he had ordered that foreign scientists from NASA, the European Space Agency, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency and Boeing, among others, be given access to Energia rocket maker.

"Together with their Russian colleagues, they will ensure the work of the International Space Station," Putin said in remarks released by the government.

"The same decision has been made in relation to our Ukrainian friends," he added. "They will take part in the work to assemble and test the Soyuz and Progress manned spacecraft."

Sending the first man into space in 1961 and launching the first sputnik satellite four years earlier -- among other accomplishments of the Soviet space programme -- remain a major source of national pride in Russia.

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