by Staff Writers
Moscow (AFP) April 11, 2008
Russia will end manned space launches from Kazakhstan's Soviet-era Baikonur cosmodrome by 2020, replacing it with a launch pad in Russia, a top official said Friday, Interfax news agency reported.
All cosmonauts will instead take off from the new Vostochny base, planned in Russia's southeast near the Chinese border, the head of the Russian space agency Roskosmos, Anatoly Perminov, was quoted as saying.
"By 2020 all piloted space programmes will be moved to this cosmodrome," Interfax quoted him as saying.
Perminov was speaking after President Vladimir Putin urged increased investment in the Russian space programme at a meeting of the Russian Security Council, a top advisory body.
"We must ensure guaranteed Russian access to space," Putin said in comments broadcast on national television.
Russia should be able to hold launches of all kinds from its own territory "from satellites, to manned spacecraft and interplanetary missions," Putin said.
Russia and the United States run the world's most active space programmes, with manned flights from Baikonur or Cape Canaveral in Florida respectively.
China's Jiuquan Space Centre is the third facility capable of handling manned missions.
In 1994, Russia agreed to rent Baikonur from Kazakhstan for 115 million dollars (91 million euros) annually, and this will continue until 2050 under a new agreement signed in 2004 by Putin and his Kazakh counterpart Nursultan Nazarbayev.
However in 2006 Russia said it would withdraw all military personnel from Baikonur for relocation to a rocket launching centre at Plesetsk near Arkhangelsk in northern Russia.
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