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Russia to use 2 launch pads at Baikonur for ISS missions

RIA Novosti

26/01/2009 16:36 MOSCOW, January 26 (RIA Novosti) - Russia will use two launch pads at the Baikonur space center in Kazakhstan to send four manned missions to the International Space Station (ISS) in 2009, a Russian space agency official said on Monday.

Four Soyuz manned spacecraft and five Progress freighters will be launched from Baikonur to the orbital station in 2009. The ISS crew is to be increased from three to six.

"The situation in 2009 is unique," said Alexei Krasnov, director of manned flight programs at Roscosmos. "In line with international agreements and the current market demand for space launches, Russia will launch four manned spacecraft to the ISS rather than two, and will have to send enough Progress space freighters to support the work of astronauts in orbit."

The official said the main launch pad at Baikonur was not enough to carry out this task and Roscosmos had modernized the launch pad No. 31 to allow additional launches.

"Launch pad No. 1 alone would not be enough, that is why we have modernized launch pad No. 31 to launch initially space freighters and later on manned spacecraft," Krasnov said.

The next Progress freighter launch will be carried out from launch pad No. 31 on February 10 and the first Soyuz spacecraft will lift off from the pad later this year.

Despite the global financial crisis, Russia is planning to set a world record by conducting 39 space launches in 2009.

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