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Russia Plans New, Non-Kazakh Rocket Launch Facility

Russia is planning a new rocket launch facility that will be prepared to put a manned mission in space by 2018, the ITAR-Tass news agency reported Wednesday.

The Vostochny, or Eastern, cosmodrome in the far eastern Amur region, which borders China, will take a decade to complete, ITAR-Tass quoted First Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov as saying.

The first unmanned launches from the mixed military and civilian facility should come by 2015, with manned launches following in 2018, Ivanov was quoted as saying.

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He said would be built in the same area as Svobodny, an existing facility for unmanned launches that the government decided to shut down earlier this year, ITAR-Tass reported.

It was unclear whether the new complex would be built on the same site.

Russia launches all its manned missions — many involving U.S. and other foreign crew members — from the Soviet-built Baikonur cosmodrome in neighboring Kazakhstan.

Russia leases the facility from Kazakhstan, whose government has complained about dangers and environmental damage from failed launches.

Russian space officials have said they plan to use both facilities, at least for some time after the new one is built.