MOSCOW (AP) — Prime Minister Vladimir Putin says Russia will spend about $1 billion this year to build a new space launch pad in the far east.
Putin told government officials in televised remarks Thursday that the first rocket launch from the Vostochny cosmodrome should take place by 2015, and in 2018 it should launch a first manned mission.
Putin said Russia will continue to use the Soviet-built Baikonur launch pad it leases from Kazakhstan, but that a new launch facility of its own is needed to guarantee its independence.
Russia has a lease-agreement with Kazakhstan to use Baikonur until 2050 for an annual fee of $115 million. In the past, Kazakh authorities briefly suspended Russian rocket launches from Baikonur following the spill of highly toxic rocket fuel.