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Warning of delay in first launch from new Russian cosmodrome

By Olga Gertcyck
29 September 2015

Vostochny 'not ready' for December Soyuz liftoff, says source in Roscosmos.

'It is clear for everyone involved that the launch will be rescheduled.' Picture: Igor Ageenko

The rocket for the first unmanned launch from Vostochny spaceport was delivered last week, but there are now claims that the flight will have to be rescheduled. If so, it is the latest in a succession of delays and problems to hit the new facility under construction in Amur region in the east of Russia. 

An unnamed source in the Russian Federal Space Agency - Roscosmos - told Izvestia: 'It is clear for everyone involved that the launch will be rescheduled. There is no sense in hiding it, the question is only who announces it and when. 

'Once construction workers finish all the works in the testing facility, it willtake at least half a year to adjust it and have its systems tested. I believe that realistic date of the launch is June-July next year.'

Vostochny cosmodrome


Vostochny cosmodrome


Vostochny cosmodrome

'Once construction workers finish all the works in the testing facility, it willtake at least half a year to adjust it and have its systems tested.' Pictures: Sergey Levashov, Igor Ageenko

The Russian government has until now declined to put back the target launch date in December 2015, despite slips in target dates for the construction, and a succession of corruption scandals. The launch date was reconfirmed during a visit by prime minister Dmitry Medvedev in August. 

However, the source says that heat, water and electricity have not been installed at the Vostochny testing facility. This was due to happen by 15 September. 

'It is impossible to place the carrier rocket in the testing facility, because electricity hasn't been connected in line with the plan,' said the source. 'Most importantly, cranes needed to move the rocket have not been commissioned. There is no heating and regular electricity in the laboratory, (and) the fire extinguishing system has not been connected. 

'Only on completion of all these works... can the rocket can be put in the testing facility. Before starting tests it is necessary to have the equipment tested which will take at least 30 days.'

Soyuz arrived on Vostochny


Soyuz arrived on Vostochny

'A special train with the Soyuz-2 carrier rocket has just arrived at Vostochny Cosmodrome.' Pictures: Dmitry Rogozin

If the launch is delayed it will be a blow to the government which sees Vostochny as a project crucial to developing Russia's eastern territory. Huge efforts from Moscow had been made to keep the timetable on track. Last week deputy prime minister Dmitry Rogozin wrote: 'A special train with the Soyuz-2 carrier rocket has just arrived at Vostochny Cosmodrome.'

The rocket was made by the Samara-based Progress Rocket Space Centre, and it is due to carry an unmanned payload into orbit. The first manned flight from Vostochnywas recently postponed until 2025 as the space industry faces belt-tightening due to the economic situation.

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