Russia's Angara Rocket Successfully Completes Suborbital Flight Test – UPDATE

Russia's Angara Rocket Successfully Completes Suborbital Flight Test – UPDATE

UPDATE, July 10, 2014:  A link has been added to a video released today by Russia’s space agency of yesterday’s successful launch.  See final paragraph.

ORIGINAL STORY, July 9, 2014:  The second try was a charm today when Russia’s new Angara-1.2PP rocket lifted off on a suborbital test flight from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome.  A June 27 attempt was scrubbed because of a bad valve.  Today’s attempt appears to have proceeded flawlessly.

The test was of the smallest version of Angara, a family of rockets in development since the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s and intended eventually to replace the Soviet-era rockets in use today.  The two-stage rocket uses environmentally-friendly fuels (liquid oxygen/kerosene and liquid oxygen/hydrogen).  The mission was designated Angara-1.2PP, with PP representing the Russian words for “first flight.”

Khrunichev State Research and Production Space Center manufactures Angara (and many of the venerable Soviet-era rockets, like Proton).  In a statement on its website, the center reported that all pre-launch, launch, and flight operations proceeded normally. 

The suborbital test launch carrying a dummy payload lasted 21 minutes.  As planned, the first stage and payload fairing fell into the Barents Sea, while the second stage impacted Russia’s Kura test range on the Kamchatka peninsula, 5,700 kilometers from Plesetsk.

One goal of the Angara program is to conduct most launches from Plesetsk and the new Vostochny Cosmodrome under construction in Russia’s Far East rather than needing to rely on launching from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in neighboring Kazakhstan.  Since Kazakhstan gained its independence after the collapse of the Soviet Union, it has been charging Russia $115 million a year to lease facilities at Baikonur.  From a strategic perspective, Russia also wants to be able to conduct its launches from within its own borders.

Today’s successful test launch is a step in that direction.  The test took place from a new launch complex at Plesetsk built specifically for Angara.  Three versions of Angara are currently under development.  Different sources report slightly different capabilities, but generally they are being designed to launch about 4 tons, 15 tons or 25 tons to low Earth orbit (LEO),  More capable (“heavier”) versions are under consideration.

Russia did not provide live television coverage of the launch, as it did on June 27.   The first official confirmation was a tweet from Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin that said “Angara, there it is.”   Rogozin oversees Russia’s space sector.

The day after the launch, Roscosmos posted a video on YouTube.  According to the on-screen caption, launch was at 16:04 Moscow Time (12:04 GMT, 8:04 am EDT).

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