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The break-up of the Soviet Union left the main Russian cosmodrome on foreign territory (Baikonur, in Kazakhstan). The Northern Cosmodrome at Plesetsk did not have facilities for large launch vehicles and was not suited for support of launches into lower-inclination orbits. Therefore Svobodniy Cosmodrome, located 7,777 km east of Moscow, was established as the Second State Space Trials Launch Centre (GIK-2) on 2 February 1996. A decommissioned UR-100N (SS-19) ICBM base formed the starting point. A crash program built a living area for 6,000 staff, a paved road network, communications, electrical, and water systems. The airport Ukrainka, 70 km away, was upgraded to Category 1 so that it could accommodate the largest transport aircraft. The objective was to have the infrastructure within 2 to 3 years to start launches of the Rokot and Start light launch vehicles.
|Start Launcer - Start launch vehicle cannister, Svobodniy|
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Such funding was not available. By 2000 conversion of unfinished Zenit pads at Plesetsk for use with Angara was underway. It would seem that Svobodniy would be limited to Rokot launches, while Plesetsk would be developed as the main Russian cosmodrome. Geosynchronous launches from Plesetsk, it was found, could be made economically by using the moon's gravity to change the orbital plane of the satellite. Svobodniy would still be needed to reach the 51.6 degree orbit of the International Space Station, however.