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Russia to start construction of new spaceport

Russia will be investing US $800m (£527m) into a new spaceport in the country's Far East, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has announced.

It is said to aim to ease the dependence on the Baikonur launch site in Kazakhstan, built during the Soviet-era.

The future cosmodrome will be built near the town of Uglegorsk in the Far Eastern Amur region, close to the border with China.

It is planned to be mostly used for civilian launches and should be operational by 2015.

"The government has made a decision to earmark 24.7 billion rubles ($809m) over the next three years for the start of the full-blown construction of the Vostochny cosmodrome," Mr Putin said.

The head of Russia's federal space agency, Roscosmos Anatoly Perminov, said that up to 30,000 specialists would build the new space launch facility.

He also noted that it will be smaller than Baikonur, which Russia rents from Kazakhstan.

"It will be a least costly and a more compact site," Mr Perminov noted, comparing the new site with Baikonur, which is the largest and oldest space launch facility in the world.

The new space port willcover some 700 sq km and will contain new launch pads, a high-tech residential compound and research laboratories.

- This story was published in BBC 19 July 2010

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