Angara mock-ups at an airshow in 2009

Russia forced to postpone maiden launch of new rocket

Russia has twice postponed the awaited launch of its new Angara rocket due to technical issues.

The first attempt to launch the rocket, the first new launcher built by Russia since the Soviet era, was cut off on Friday afternoon in the last moments before expected take off due to the vehicle’s booster cutting out.

The second attempt on Saturday was also called off due to unexplained technical reasons.

"The rocket will be removed from the launchpad and transferred to a technical stand for comprehensive analysis," Russian news agency RIA Novosti quoted the Khrunichev space centre, the rocket's manufacturer as saying, adding the new launch time would only be decided after the checks.

The failed launch represents yet another blow to Russia’s space industry, lately plagued by a series of technical faults and glitches, including several Proton failures destroying satellites.

The new Angara rocket, designed to replace Russia’s workhorse Proton launcher, is using eco-friendly fuel consisting of a mix of liquid oxygen and kerosene. Its predecessor Proton is powered by toxic hydrazine fuel.

Angara was designed and built by the Khrunichev space centre, the same company which is manufacturing the troubled Protons.

Russia’s once pioneering space industry has been affected by years of budget cuts and braindrain, seeing young engineering talent looking for opportunities abroad.

The failed first attempt to launch Angara was watched by Russia’s President Vladimir Putin via a video link at the Kremlin.

More than two decades in the making, the new generation rocket is a centrepiece of Putin's plan to reform Russia's space industry and a drive to launch satellites from its own soil, breaking dependence on other ex-Soviet republics.

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