Russia Eyes April Launch From Vostochny

Soyuz launch complex at Vostochny. (Credit: Roscosmos)
Soyuz launch complex at Vostochny. (Credit: Roscosmos)

The assembly of the first rocket to launch from Russia’s new spaceport has begun at Vostochny, TASS reports.

If all goes well, the launch of the Soyuz-2.1a rocket with three satellites aboard will take place during the second half of April, Russian space officials said. The booster will carry Aist-2D Earth remote sensing spacecraft and two student-built satellites.

“The installation of practically all support equipment systems of the Soyuz-2 rocket and space complex has been completed at the cosmodrome. It is planned to complete tests at the launching site by March 25 if the necessary construction readiness is provided. On March 26, comprehensive tests of support equipment are due to begin,” the Center for Ground-Based Space Infrastructure Operation said in a statement.

Roscosmos General Director Igor Komarov said the first phase of the Vostochny Cosmodrome will cost the government almost 120 billion rubles ($1.46 billion), according to Interfax. Future work will include the construction of a launch pad for Russia’s new Angara family of boosters.

Russia plans to eventually transfer many of the launches it now conducts from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan to Vostochny. RSC Energia is now developing a new crew vehicle named Federation to replace the Soyuz spacecraft. The new vehicle is being designed for trips to the moon.

Construction of the Vostochny spaceport has been plagued by delays, corruption and unpaid wages. On Monday, a leading engineer was charged with accepting a 50,000-ruble ($610) bribe from a subcontractor. Authorities would not reveal the man’s name.