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Russia to stop spacecraft launches from Far East in 2007

RIA Novosti

22/01/2007 15:26 MOSCOW, January 22 (RIA Novosti) - Russia will stop launching spacecraft from the Svobodny space center in the country's Far East in 2007, the space forces commander said Monday.

"The Svobodny Cosmodrome will be suspended completely in 2007 as it has no perspectives for further development. The only launch of a Start-1 rocket this year will be conducted in the interests of Israel," Colonel General Vladimir Popovkin said.

Russia's Defense Ministry currently uses three sites for launches of carrier rockets to orbit satellites, and for ballistic missiles tests: the Baikonur space center in the Central Asian Republic of Kazakhstan; Svobodny, located 75 miles north of Blagoveshchensk in the Amur Region bordering on China; and the Plesetsk space center in northwest Russia.

The Svobodny center, founded in 1996 at the site of a former strategic missile base closed down under the Russia-U.S. Strategic Arms Limitations Treaty (START-2), was set up to address uncertainties over access to launch facilities following the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Popovkin said part of his forces' units would remain at the site to track space objects.

A federal program for the development of Russian space centers over the next decade will prioritize construction of launch facilities at the Plesetsk space center in the Arkhangelsk Region. Launches are set to include the Angara-A5 heavy carrier rocket, being developed by the Khrunichev State Space Scientific Production Center.

Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said last month: "We plan to transfer the launches of defense and dual-purpose spacecraft to domestic soil."

The new facilities at Plesetsk will eventually allow Russia to stop using the Baikonur and Svobodny space centers for military and national security purposes.

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