The maiden launch of the brand new Angara rocket, the first new launcher Russia has built in years, will be delayed for weeks due to technical problems, officials said on Tuesday.
The news, dealing another blow to Russia’s struggling space industry, comes days after the first attempt to launch the eco-friendly spacecraft has been halted during countdown seconds before lift-off.
The Angara rocket, designed as a replacement for Russia’s workhorse Proton launcher, reportedly experienced glitches in the fuel pumping system, the rocket’s builder NPO Energomash reported on Tuesday.
"Today the rocket has been taken off the launchpad and sent to the technical complex," Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin was quoted as saying by state news agency Itar-Tass.
"Not days but weeks will be needed to return the rocket to the launchpad,” he said during a visit to the construction site in Vostochny, Russian far east, where a new cosmodrome is being built with the aim to reduce Russia’s dependence on Baikonour, the original Soviet cosmodrome which now lies in Kazakhstan's territory.
According to NPO Energomash, the launch was aborted 79 seconds before the start of the launch sequence due to a fall in the pressure of an oxidizer tank.
The failed first attempt to launch Angara, which has been in the making for more than two decades, signals a bad start to Russia’s attempt to revive its space industry. Once at the forefront of technology development, the Russian space sector has been plagued in the recent years with a series of faults and glitches, which has seen multiple satellites being destroyed shortly after lift-off.
Years of budget cuts and brain a massive drain have been largely blamed for the situation
Angara, entirely designed and built within post-Soviet Russia's borders, is a centrepiece of Putin's industry reform plan and his move to consolidate the space programme on Russian soil, breaking dependence on other ex-Soviet republics.
A potential commercial rival to France's Arianespace and California-based SpaceX rockets, a heavier-lift version of the Angara rocket due to be tested later this year is slated to replace Russia's workhorse Proton rocket, which has suffered an embarrassing litany of costly botched launches.