First rocket launch from Russia’s new spaceport after delay

Russia launches its inaugural rocket from a new cosmodrome, a day after technical problems emerged.

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

A Russian Soyuz 2.1A rocket carrying Lomonosov, Aist-2D and SamSat-218 satellites lifts off from the launch pad at the new Vostochny cosmodrome outside the city of Uglegorsk in the far eastern Amur region, Russia, April 28, 2016.

Russia launched its inaugural rocket from the new Vostochny Cosmodrome on Thursday, after a day of delay due to a technical problem occurred during the much-publicised event led to President Vladimir Putin criticising the programme's officials.

The Soyuz 2.1a rocket carrying three satellites took off at 11:01am local time (02:01 GMT), the national space agency said in a statement, after the countdown was automatically stopped due to technical reasons 24 hours before.

The satellites separated from the rocket's third stage about nine minutes into the flight, heading to their designated orbits, Russian news agencies quoted officials from the space agency Roscosmos as saying.

The launch was cancelled less than two minutes before the lift-off on Wednesday, angering President Vladimir Putin. He had flown thousands of kilometres to watch what Russian media and officials announced as an historic event.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, addresses employees after a launch of a Russian Soyuz 2.1a rocket carrying Lomonosov, Aist-2D and SamSat-218 satellites at the new Vostochny Cosmodrome outside the city of Uglegorsk, in the far eastern Amur region Thursday, April 28, 2016. 

"I want to congratulate you. There is something to be proud of," Putin told cosmodrome workers and Roscosmos officials after watching Thursday's launch at Vostochny, Russian media reported.

"The equipment overreached itself a little bit yesterday," he said. "In principle, we could have held the launch yesterday, but the equipment overdid its job and stopped the launch. This is a normal thing."

His remarks changed after his tough words on Wednesday's launch, when he slamed Roscosmos and government officials for a large number of technical hitches in the space industry, voicing that "there should be an appropriate reaction."

10.000 workers

The launch is good news for Russia's beleaguered space sector, with the new cosmodrome announced to mark a rebirth of Russian spacial industry.

The Vostochny Spaceport, the first civilian rocket launch site on Russian territory, is expected to phase out Russia's reliance on the Baikonur Cosmodrome that it leases from ex-Soviet state of Kazakhstan.

The new spaceport, located in the Amur region, has been praised by the president as the country's biggest current building project with a budget estimated at between 300 and 400 billion rubles ($4.5 to $6 billion, 4.0 to 5.3 billion euros).

A Russian Soyuz 2.1a rocket carrying Lomonosov, Aist-2D and SamSat-218 satellites lifts off from the launch pad at the new Vostochny Cosmodrome outside the city of Uglegorsk, in the far eastern Amur region on April 28, 2016. (Reuters)

Some 10,000 workers have since 2012 been building 115 kilometres (70 miles) of roads in the immense, sparsely populated region, as well as 125 kilometres of railways and a town with housing for 25,000 people.

The Kremlin's aim is to ease Russia's dependence on space launches in Baikonur, Kazakhstan, a launch pad Moscow has been forced to rent at a cost of $115 million a year since the collapse of the Soviet Union.

But Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin, who oversees the space and defence industries, stated that Russia would continue to use Baikonur to launch manned missions until 2023, and the Soyuz 2.1a would be the only launch from Vostochny in 2016.

TRTWorld and agencies