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Russia may build civilian launch site in Far East-1

(Recasts lead, adds details, background in paras 2, 4-6)

BLAGOVESHCHENSK, September 26 (RIA Novosti) - Russia is to close a military space center in the Far East and find a suitable location for a new civilian launch site in the region, a first deputy prime minister said Wednesday.

Sergei Ivanov said all military-oriented space launches from the Svobodny military space center in the Amur Region will be transferred to the Plesetsk space center in northern Russia, while a special commission looks for a site for a new civilian launch site.

"We are examining sites all over Russia for constructing a civilian launch site, including for manned missions, and we are prioritizing the Far East," Sergei Ivanov said.

Russia currently launches manned space mission from the Baikonur space center in Kazakhstan. Another launch site in Russia's Plesetsk only handles unmanned space missions.

Ivanov added that the Amur Region in the Far East had a good chance of being selected as a launch site as the region needs new hi-tech production facilities, but added that identifying any new site will require a thorough evaluation before the project is implemented.

Russia leases the Baikonur space center from the Central Asian republic of Kazakhstan at $115 million per year. In June 2005 the Federation Council, the upper chamber of the Russian parliament, ratified an agreement between Russia and Kazakhstan on extending Russia's lease of the Baikonur space launch facility until 2050.

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