Russia Readies Suborbital Test Flight of New Angara Rocket – POSTPONED

Russia Readies Suborbital Test Flight of New Angara Rocket – POSTPONED

UPDATE, June 27, 2014, 8:25 am ET:   The launch has been postponed.  Some reports say the problem is a leaky valve that needs to be replaced and they will try again tomorrow (June 28).  We’ll post more details when they are available.

ORIGINAL STORY, June 26, 2014:  Russia is getting ready for the first test launch of a new rocket family, Angara, tomorrow (June 27, 2014).  The launch, from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome near the Arctic Circle, is scheduled for 15:15 Moscow Time (7:15 am Eastern Daylight Time).

This is a suborbital test launch of the smallest version of the rocket, Angara 1, carrying a simulated payload.  Test launches are just that, tests, but Angara’s manufacturer, Khrunichev State Research and Production Space Center, has a lot riding on success.  A number of failures of its rockets or upper stages over the past several years have undermined confidence in the company.  Three Khrunichev officials were fired  and the head of the company resigned 10 months ago following a July 2013 Proton launch failure caused by improperly installed attitude control sensors.  Another Proton failed on May 15, 2014 because of a failed bearing in the third stage.  The rocket has not yet returned to flight. 

Russia plans to field several versions of Angara, a family of rockets intended eventually to replace a number of venerable Russian rockets including Cosmos-3M, Tsyklon, Rokot, Soyuz and Proton.  Russia’s RIA Novosti news agency posted an English-language video on YouTube providing an overview of the program and a simulation of production and launch.  Angara’s first stage is fueled by liquid oxygen (LOX) and kerosene and the second stage by LOX and hydrogen, considered more environmentally friendly than other rocket fuels.

Tomorrow’s launch is from Plesetsk, but many of the launches are expected to take place from a new launch site under construction in Siberia called Vostochny.  Russia is building the launch site to enable it to move launches from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan to within Russia’s borders.  Kazakhstan gained independence following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 and began charging Russia $115 million a year to lease the site.

Anatoly Zak at maintains a website with up-to-the-minute postings about Angara that trace the program from its origins 20 years ago to preparations for tomorrow’s launch of Angara-1.2PP.  The 1.2 refers to this version of Angara and PP is for Pervy Polyot — First Flight — Zak explains.  He shows versions of Angara with a payload to low Earth orbit (LEO) capability from 2 tons (Angara 1.1) to 35 tons (Angara 7), but notes that Angara 7 did not proceed past concept studies.   The largest version still planned is Angara 5 with a payload capability of 25 tons to LEO, similar to the U.S. Delta IV Heavy, currently our most capable rocket.

Correction:  The original version of this story reported that the launch time was 18:15 Moscow Time (10:15 am ET) based on information published on, but the intended launch time in fact was 15:15 Moscow Time (7:15 am ET), which was corrected by after the original story went to press.

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