New Russian spaceport launches rocket

A Russian Soyuz 2.1a rocket carrying three satellites lifting off yesterday morning from the new cosmodrome outside Uglegorsk city in the far eastern Amur region.
A Russian Soyuz 2.1a rocket carrying three satellites lifting off yesterday morning from the new cosmodrome outside Uglegorsk city in the far eastern Amur region.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

MOSCOW • Russia's new Vostochny Cosmodrome hosted its first rocket launch yesterday, the Roscosmos space agency said, after a last-minute delay a day earlier led to President Vladimir Putin criticising the programme's officials.

The launch is good news for Russia's beleaguered space sector, with the cosmodrome touted to mark a rebirth of an industry plagued by a string of embarrassments in recent years.

The Soyuz 2.1a rocket carrying three satellites took off at 11.01am local time, the national space agency said in a statement, after the countdown was automatically halted for technical reasons 24 hours previously.

Mr Putin was present for the event, having travelled to Russia's far east to witness the first attempt at take-off. "I want to congratulate you. We can be proud. Yesterday, the technical side was put to the test and the launch had to be stopped, but it happens. It's a normal thing," he told industry officials shortly after the launch.

The spaceport, located in the Amur region, has been hailed by the President as the country's biggest current building project, with a budget estimated at between 300 and 400 billion roubles (S$8.2 billion).

The Kremlin's goal is to ease Russia's dependence on space launches at Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, a launch pad Moscow has been forced to rent at a cost of US$115 million (S$155 million) a year since the collapse of the Soviet Union.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 29, 2016, with the headline 'New Russian spaceport launches rocket'. Print Edition | Subscribe