News from the 64th International Astronautical Congress | Russia Plows Ahead with New Far East Cosmodrome

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BEIJING — The Russian government is pushing ahead with its massive investment in a new cosmodrome in the Russian Far East as part of a dual strategy of reducing its dependence on the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan and stimulating economic development in the Far East, according to a senior official from Russia’s Central Institute of Machine Building, TsNIIMash.

TsNIIMash Deputy Director Alexei Ramashkin said the first launch from the new Vostochny spaceport will be of a Soyuz-2 rocket in 2015. By 2020, he said, launches of Russia’s new Angara rocket series are scheduled to start. The smaller version of Angara is scheduled to make its inaugural flight in 2014 from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome in Northern Russia.

Ramashkin said that over time, Russia plans to position Vostochny to launch a variety of missions including those supporting Russia’s Mars and lunar exploration programs as well as science and Earth observation satellites.

Russia has long chafed at having to negotiate with Kazakhstan, and pay an annual lease of the Baikonur site, to use the facility that is where Russia’s space program made some of its most spectacular launches.

“Guaranteed access from our territory” is the main driver of the development, Ramashkin said, but major investments in infrastructure, a new airport and other facilities are designed to anchor a local population near Vostochny.

Ramashkin said there is an ongoing debate about whether to transfer some rocket-manufacturing facilities from the Moscow region to Vostochny as part of the development. He said no decision has been made.