Russia Cancels “Angara” Rocket Launch

The Angara rocket family is the first new design of a space vehicle since the Soviet era. It has been in development for nearly 20 years at an estimated cost of 100 billion rubles (roughly US$3 billion. The historic launch was set to take place from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome in Northwest Russia before “technical issues” forced the launch to be aborted just minutes from its scheduled liftoff.

What happened with Angara’s launch?

According to the commander of Russia’s aerospace defense troops, Aleksandr Golovko, the launch has been rescheduled for Saturday, 3:15pm Moscow time (11:15 GMT). “During the launch preparation an automated system has given a red light for carrying out the launch. The launch has been postponed to the reserve date of June 28,” Golovko said.

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Angara, which is named after a river in Siberia, is the first new orbit-capable rocket to be developed by Russia since the fall of the Soviet Union. Designed with a modular approach, it is capable of flying in multiple configurations depending upon mission or payload requirements.

Phasing out the Soyuz

Presently, the Soyuz class of rockets is the Russian workhorse and the Soyuzo-U, which is being phased out of use, is the single most-launched rocket in the history of orbital spaceflight having made nearly 800 launches. Right now, the rocket is used exclusively to deploy the Progress spacecraft which docks with the International Space Station. It’s these rockets that are presently the only means by which the United States can participate on the ISS. The U.S. pays about $80 million per astronaut in order to get to the ISS. Tesla CEO and SpaceX founder, Elon Musk, recently unveiled his design for changing this with its first manned rocket.

It’s believed that Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu called Putin personally and asked for an hour before explaining the problem to the president. According to Shoigu, Putin was in no hurry and told the minister “Do not rush the work. Carefully analyze everything and report to me after an hour.”

The “Angora” family of rockets will not just be launched from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome in the north, but also from the Vostochny Cosmodrome, currently under construction, in the far east.

While the Angora rocket has yet to see its first launch after today’s delay, it’s still expected to be the cornerstone of the Russian unmanned rocket program for decades to come presumably beginning tomorrow when it takes to space.