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Russia opens second launch pad at Baikonur

File photo of Progress Ì-01Ì cargo transport space vehicle launch from Baikonur Cosmodrome on Nov 26, 2008. RSC Energia photo

MOSCOW (BNS): Russia would be using two launch pads at the Baikonur space center in Kazakhstan for sending four manned space missions to the International Space Station, Alexei Krasnov, director of manned flight programmes at Roscosmos, said here on Monday.

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

This year the ISS crew is expected to go up from three to six. For this four Soyuz manned spacecraft and five Progress cargo spacecraft will be launched from the Baikonur space center to the orbital station.

Russian news agency RIA Novosti quoted space agency official Alexei Krasnov as saying that the situation in 2009 was unique. In line with international agreements and the current market demand for space launches, Russia would be launching four manned spacecraft to the ISS rather than two, and will be sending enough Progress space freighters to support the work of astronauts in orbit, Krasnov said.

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

According to the agency, the next Progress freighter launch would be carried out from launch pad No 31 on February 10 and the first Soyuz spacecraft will liftoff 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, the agency said.

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