President Vladimir Putin visits the Vostochny Cosmodrome in October 2015. (credit: Kremlin Press Service)

Spaceflight began in 1957, when the Soviet Union launched Sputnik into space. Four years later, Yuri Gagarin launched from the same pad at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. However, Kazakhstan declared its independence after the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, and since then Russia has had to lease its launch facilities.

No longer. Russia began working on a new spaceport, the Vostochny Cosmodrome, in 2011. Located in the far east of Russia, the modern, $3 billion facility is one of President Vladimir Putin's signature projects. Yet it has been beset by hunger strikes, claims of unpaid workers, and other challenges. For example, in 2015, Russia’s Prosecutor General reported that $126 million had been stolen during construction. Additionally, a man driving a diamond-encrusted Mercedes was arrested after embezzling $75,000 from the project.

However, after a visit by Putin in October, the project appears to have swiftly progressed. A series of launch tests and checks in March came off without incident. And now, reports the Russian news agency TASS, it is ready for spaceflight. "I wish to inform you that tomorrow we will be ready to launch our space rocket," Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said Tuesday.

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