New Russian heavy-lift rocket makes it into space after 2 failed launches

Russia successfully test-launched a new heavy-lift rocket from its Far Eastern Space Facility on Thursday, following two aborted attempts earlier this week.

The first attempt to launch the Angara-A5 rocket from the Vostochny spaceport on Tuesday was aborted about two minutes before scheduled liftoff due to a failure in the pressurization system of the oxidizer tank in the rocket’s central block.

The second launch on Wednesday was also aborted by an automatic safety system due to a fault in the engine start control mechanism, Yuri Borisov, head of Russia’s state space company Roscosmos, said. He added that the failure was most likely due to a programming error.

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Thursday’s launch will be the fourth launch of the Angara A5, a heavy-lift version of the new Angara rocket family developed to replace the Soviet-designed Proton rocket.

Russia’s Angara-A5 rocket lifts off from the Vostochny Space Launch Complex on the outskirts of the city of Tsiolkovsky, about 195 miles from the city of Blagoveshchensk in the Amur region of Russia’s far east. (Roscosmos Space Corporation, via AP)

The past three launches took place from the Plesetsk launch pad in northwestern Russia.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Russia leased the Baikonur Cosmodrome from Kazakhstan and continued to use it for most space launches. The agreement with Kazakhstan allows Russia to continue leasing Baikonur for $115 million a year until 2050.


While Roscosmos continues to rely on Baikonur, Russian authorities are developing Vostochny as the ideal facility for launching Angara. Construction of the new spaceport has taken longer than planned and has so far seen limited use.

Development of the Angara A5, intended to be the main launch vehicle for Russia’s promising lunar research program, has also faced repeated delays and is years behind schedule.

Like the Soviet-designed Proton it will replace, the new rocket is intended to launch intelligence and communications satellites into geostationary orbit.