Saturday 3 December 2016

Russia launches first rocket from new space facility

Published 28/04/2016 | 14:16

Cosmodrome employees watch the launch of a Russian Soyuz 2.1a rocket at the new Vostochny Cosmodrome (AP)
Cosmodrome employees watch the launch of a Russian Soyuz 2.1a rocket at the new Vostochny Cosmodrome (AP)

Russia has successfully launched the first rocket from its new space facility after a last-minute delay the day before.

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The Soyuz 2.1a booster blasted off from the Vostochny Cosmodrome in the Russian Far East in the early hours of Thursday.

The Roscosmos space agency said in a statement that the three satellites the rocket was carrying orbited several hours later.

The launch was originally scheduled for Wednesday but was called off one and a half minutes before the planned lift-off.

President Vladimir Putin flew to Vostochny for the launch and had to extend his stay in order to see the rocket take off.

Mr Putin, who watched from about a mile away, congratulated the facility's staff.

He said: "This is just the first stage of enormous work, and everything you were supposed to do you did brilliantly."

The launch pad so far is equipped only for launching rockets carrying small cargo like satellites.

More facilities have to be built to accommodate heavy-lift launch vehicles and service manned launches.

Roscosmos officials have said the space agency was working to pinpoint what went wrong on Wednesday.

The construction of the vast space complex some 5,500 kilometres (3,400 miles) east of Moscow has been troubled by delays - the first launch had been expected about four months ago - and dogged by corruption scandals.

Workers who had complained of going unpaid for months went on strike last spring.

The directors of three project subcontractors were arrested on corruption charges.

Press Association

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