Russia’s Angara A5 rocket blasts off into space after two aborted launches

Russia’s Angara A5 rocket blasts off into space after two aborted launches

Russia wants to use rocket’s cargo capacities to deliver modules for a future rival to the International Space Station.

Russia has launched its Angara A5 rocket from a space facility in the country’s far east after technical glitches prompted officials to abort missions at the last minute for two days in a row.

Thursday’s launch of the new space vehicle is intended to showcase Russia’s post-Soviet space ambitions, and the growing role played by the Vostochny Cosmodrome, which is located in the forests of the Amur region bordering China.

Launch attempts on Tuesday and Wednesday were cancelled due to a failure in a pressurising system in an oxidiser tank and in the engine control system, according to Russian space agency Roscosmos.

Minutes after takeoff, the rocket was travelling at more than 25,000 kilometres per hour and entered orbit.

“With this launch, flight design tests of the Amur space rocket complex with Angara heavy-class launch vehicles on Vostochny began,” Roscosmos announced on social media.

“The rocket worked according to plan. The upper stage separated … and is currently putting the test payload into target orbit.”

ISS rival eyed

Russia began the Angara project a few years after the 1991 fall of the Soviet Union as a Russian-made launch vehicle that would ensure access to space even without the Baikonur Cosmodrome which it rents from Kazakhstan.

The development of the Angara A5, a heavy booster rocket designed to ferry tonnes of equipment into space, has been beset by delays.

The first Angara A5 test flight took place in 2014, and another followed in 2020, both from the Plesetsk space facility in Arkhangelsk, 800km (497 miles) north of Moscow.

The Angara A5 is said to be much more environmentally friendly compared with Proton M, Russia’s heavy-lift rocket that has been in operation since the mid-1960s.

Moscow plans to use the rocket’s cargo capacities to deliver modules for a rival to the International Space Station (ISS) that it hopes to construct in the coming years.

Russia’s space programme has been hit by a number of high-profile setbacks in recent years.

Last month, its launch of a Soyuz spacecraft to the ISS was also delayed for two days. Three astronauts – from Russia, Belarus and the United States – were strapped in and ready for takeoff when a “voltage dip” triggered an automatic shutdown seconds before blastoff.

Russia’s first mission to the moon in almost 50 years failed last year when a lander crashed into the lunar surface.



Al Jazeera and news agencies

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