Russia postpones launch of new-generation rocket

MOSCOW (AFP) - The maiden launch of Russia's newest rocket hit a major last-minute snag on Friday forcing authorities to abort the flight in the presence of President Vladimir Putin.

The Angara was scheduled to blast off from Plesetsk in northern Russia when officials reported a sudden automatic launch abort, footage on Russian television showed.

The Kremlin strongman, who was overseeing the rocket's planned launch via live linkup, gave space officials an hour to look into the glitch before reporting to him.

"Work in a calm manner, without haste and fuss," he said in televised remarks.

The launch has been postponed until Saturday.

Designed to succeed Proton and other Soviet-era launchers, the Angara is billed as the first rocket to have been completely built after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

The Khrunichev Center, the state-run spacecraft maker which has developed the rocket, declined to say what went wrong.

"We can't say anything right now," a spokeswoman told AFP. "The defence ministry will be looking into this."

The Russian government is scrambling to overhaul its space programme after recent setbacks including the loss of several satellites and an unmanned supply ship to the International Space Station.

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