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Manned space flights from new Russian base in 2018: Putin

Russia aims to begin launching manned rockets from its new Vostochny cosmodrome located in the far east of the country as early as 2018, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said Saturday.

“The first manned flights from the cosmodrome should take place in 2018-2020,” Putin was quoted as saying by Interfax news agency at a meeting on the construction of the cosmodrome in the Amur region.

Russia has been leasing the Baikonur cosmodrome from Kazakhstan for launching manned and unmanned rockets since the collapse of the Soviet Union, but in 2007 announced plans for the Vostochny complex to have its own launch site.

The construction of Vostochny is one of the “most ambitious projects in modern Russia,” said Putin.

The facility should be ready to begin launching satellites and cargo rockets to the International Space Station in 2015.

The Russian government plans to invest 25 billion rubles (640 million euros, 800 million dollars) into building Vostochny, Putin said during a visit to the site last month.

Russia currently pays Kazakhstan 115 million de dollars (90 million euros) per year to use Baikonur.