Russia's Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev inspects the launch
pad of the new generation Angara rocket, which is under
construction, at Plesetsk cosmodrome in Arkhangelsk region.
Russia launched its first new design of space rocket
since the Soviet era from the northern military site of
Plesetsk, aiming to break its reliance on foreign suppliers as
well as the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.
The Angara rocket's quiet debut was in marked contrast to a
live broadcast of an embarrassing aborted first launch
attempt watched by President Vladimir Putin from the Kremlin.
"Angara is here!" tweeted Russian Deputy Prime Minister
Dmitry Rogozin after the successful flight of a rocket that
was more than two decades in the works.
The new generation rockets - designed to carry a full range
of civilian and military payloads - are a key to Putin's
effort to reform a once-pioneering space industry hobbled by
years of budget cuts and a brain drain in the 1990s.
The Angara-1.2PP trial rocket blasted off at 4 p.m. Moscow
time (1200 GMT) on a 21 minute suborbital flight 5700km
across Russia's Arctic coast line, the Russian Defence
Ministry said in a statement.
Images of the pencil-thin Angara-1.2PP trial rocket powered
by an orange jet flame into the cloudy skies were later shown
on Russian state television.
"This is an entirely new rocket," Alexander Golovko,
commander of Russia's Air and Space Defence Forces told the
channel. "It has proved its ability."
Work on the Angara began after the break-up of the Soviet
Union when Moscow lost the maker of its Zenit and Dnepr
rockets as well as the Baikonur launch site, based
respectively in the newly independent republics of Ukraine
For some industry insiders, the crisis in Moscow's relations
with Ukraine over its annexation of Crimea proves Russia's
need to produce and launch its rockets domestically.
"We are disentangling ourselves from our dependence on other
states for military launches," said Igor Marinin, editor of
the trade journal Novosti Kosmonavtiki.
FIRST RUSSIAN ROCKET
The Angara rocket is the first entirely designed and built
within post-Soviet Russia's borders - ordered by then
President Boris Yeltsin in the 1990s.
"Everything else we have is a modernisation of our Soviet
legacy," Russian space industry expert Igor Lissov said.
A potential commercial rival to Arianespace of France and
Californian-based SpaceX, a heavier version of the modular
launcher is designed to replace Russia's workhorse Proton
rocket, which has suffered an embarrassing litany of
That model is due to tested later this year.
Unlike the Proton, powered by toxic hydrazine fuel, Angara
uses an ecologically cleaner mix of liquid oxygen and
Industry experts estimate its development has cost billions
of dollars, and the Angara rockets will only become
commercially viable in another decade if launched from a new
Vostochny cosmodrome Russia is building in the far east.
Angara - named after a Siberian river - is made by the same
builder, the Khrunichev space centre, as the ill-fated
"Twenty years of development is over but we are at the very
beginning of the flight testing," Anatoly Zak, editor of the
Russianspaceweb.com industry news site.
The designer of the first stage RD-191 engine, Energomash,
blamed the failure on its first trial launch on a drop in the
pressure of the liquid oxygen tank.