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Defense Ministry to mothball space center in Russia's Far East

RIA Novosti

06/06/2007 12:47 VLADIVOSTOK, June 6 (RIA Novosti) - The Russian defense minister and a group of military inspectors arrived Wednesday at a space center in Russia's Far East, slated to be put out of operation later this year, a spokesman for the local governor said.

Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov will discuss the future of the Svobodny space center, a spokesman for the Amur Region's governor said. "The meeting at the space center will be closed to mass media," he added.

The commander of Russia's Space Forces said on January 22 that the Svobodny space center would be mothballed 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 at the time.

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.

Svobodny, 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 additional launch facilities at the space center.

Launches are set to include the Angara-A5 heavy carrier rocket, being developed by the Khrunichev State Space Scientific Production Center.

The new facilities at Plesetsk will eventually allow Russia to stop using the Baikonur space center, which Russia is currently renting from Kazakhstan, and the Svobodny space center for military and national security purposes.

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