Putin-frustrated-after-witnessing-scrapped-rocket-launch-at-new-billion-dollar-space-facility. AMUR OBLAST, Russia, Russian President Vladimir Putin was again disappointed by his government’s space program on Wednesday when the inaugural rocket launch at a new billion dollar facility was scrapped at the last minute due to a technical problem.
The unmanned Soyuz-2.1a rocket was scheduled to blast off from the new Vostochny Cosmodrome, in Russia’s Far East, on Wednesday. Carrying three satellites, the rocket did not get off the ground, though.
“An automatic stop of the launch occurred due to malfunction of the automated control system. The orbit for the launch was sun-synchronous, thus a postponement for 24 hours is planned… I think there is every reason to believe that it can be fixed in one day,” Russian space chief Igor Komarov said.
Having flown to Amur Oblast just for the occasion, Putin expressed frustration after mission controllers pulled the plug.
“Russia remains a leader in the number of launches, it is a fact, this is good,” he told space officials afterward. “But we encounter a large number of mishaps. This is bad, and there should be a professional and prompt reaction.”
The launch was rescheduled for Thursday, but news reports indicate it might not happen then, either.
The launch was supposed to be a shining moment for the new cosmodrome, which has drawn negative focus for various problems since its construction started in 2012. The facility, in fact, isn’t even finished. Officials expect it to be completed sometime in 2018.
The billion dollar Vostochny Cosmodrome was built to ease Russia’s dependence on the Soviet-era Baikonur Cosmodrome, located in what is now Kazakhstan. But scandals involving corruption, unpaid wages and delays have drawn heavy criticism.
Wednesday’s launch was supposed to happen last year, but reported mismanagement of the project and poor performance by subcontractors caused officials to delay it until this month.
Putin and Komarov both said the delay Wednesday had nothing to do with the facility, but rather problems with the rocket.
Wednesday marked the second time that Putin was present for a launch that did not get off the ground. In June 2014 he watched as a new rocket was similarly aborted on live television.
“Such things happen quite often. Our colleagues abroad also experience the same problems… In general, technology is a very serious thing. Even [clothes] irons break from time to time, let alone a rocket, which is a lot more complicated,” Russian space spokesman Igor Burenkov said.
By Doug G. Ware