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Wednesday 24 September 2014

Russia successfully launches new Soyuz rocket

Published 28/12/2013 | 15:44

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A man pulls a cart with watermelons in front of a poster of a Soyuz spacecraft in Baikonur, the town constructed to service the Baikonur cosmodrome, September 22, 2013. In Baikonur as elsewhere, the once-pioneering Russian space sector is struggling to live up to its legacy, end an embarrassing series of botched launches, modernise decaying infrastructure and bring in new blood and new ideas. Picture taken September 22, 2013. REUTERS/Shamil Zhumatov (KAZAKHSTAN - Tags: SCIENCE TECHNOLOGY SOCIETY BUSINESS)
A man pulls a cart with watermelons in front of a poster of a Soyuz spacecraft in Baikonur, the town constructed to service the Baikonur cosmodrome

Russia successfully launched an upgraded version of its Soviet-design Soyuz rocket on Saturday, giving a boost to the country's troubled space programme.

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The launch of the Soyuz 2.1v rocket, which features a new engine and digital guidance system, had originally been planned for the beginning of 2012.

However, this was postponed due to an accident during testing which caused engine damage, Interfax reported.

It was then scheduled to be launched earlier this week but was delayed again, Interfax reported.

The lightweight launch vehicle blasted off Saturday afternoon from Russia's Plesetsk launch pad in the northwest Arkhangelsk region.

A spokesman said it was a debut launch for the rocket to place a scientific earth-monitoring satellite into orbit.

The Soyuz 2.1v is the latest addition to Russia's Soyuz family of rockets, which has become the world's most frequently used booster since its first launch in 1966.

In 1961, a prototype of the Soyuz, Vostok, carried the first cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin into space. Today, its descendants are the only way to ferry astronauts to the International Space Station.

Despite an improved budget, Moscow's space programme has suffered a series of humiliating launch failures in recent years that industry veterans blame on poor management, the legacy of a decade of crimped spending and a brain drain.

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