First launch from new Russian spaceport delayed

AP News
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Posted: Apr 27, 2016 11:51 AM
First launch from new Russian spaceport delayed

MOSCOW (AP) — The launch of the first rocket from Russia's new space facility has been delayed after a last-minute problem.

The Wednesday launch of a Soyuz rocket carrying three satellites was to inaugurate space flight from the Vostochny Cosmodrome in the Russian Far East. The facility is aimed at reducing Russia's dependence on the Baikonur complex in Kazakhstan for its major launches.

The launch was scrubbed 1½ minutes before the planned liftoff. Russian space agency Roscosmos says the launch has been tentatively rescheduled to Thursday, but that a decision will be made only in the morning.

President Vladimir Putin was in attendance for the launch and plans to extend his stay in case the rocket takes off on Thursday from the facility some 5,500 kilometers (3,500 miles) east of Moscow.

At a meeting of a government commission discussing the launch, Putin asked why the rocket was delivered in faulty condition.

Roscosmos' deputy head Alexander Ivanov told the Tass state news agency that the space agency is working to pinpoint what went wrong, but that the launch failure was not related to the facility's infrastructure and he ruled out human factors.

Construction of the vast space complex 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.

At the launch commission meeting, Putin said: "If their guilt is proven, they will have to change their warm beds at home for plank-beds in prison," according to Tass.