Russia postpones upcoming Soyuz rocket launch
Russia has postponed the next blast-off of its Soyuz rocket until September after a freighter carried by the flagship launch vehicle crashed into Earth, the space forces commander said Thursday.
A Soyuz-2 rocket was to have launched a Russian GLONASS navigation satellite this week from the Plesetsk cosmodrome to help create a system Russia hopes will rival the US GPS.
"The launch has been postponed until the first half of September," Lieutenant General Oleg Ostapenko was quoted as saying by Russian news agencies. "The decision has been taken to remove the rocket from the launch pad."
He said that the rocket will be subjected to a thorough test of all its component parts once it is removed and that the September launch date was not final.
His remarks are in line with a review by the Russian space agency Roskosmos of all its rockets and also confirm comments by an unnamed space official earlier to Russian media that the Soyuz rockets have been grounded pending the probe.
Ostapenko insisted that the delay would not hurt the GLONASS system, already hurt by the loss of three satellites after a launch failure in December.
"We decided not to hurry and not to put pressure. If we launch it one month later, it's no big deal," he said.
The announcement comes after an unmanned Progress space ship carrying tonnes of cargo for the International Space Station (ISS) crashed into Siberia shortly after blast-off Wednesday.
Ostapenko commented only on the upcoming GLONASS launch and gave no further details on future launch plans, including manned missions to the ISS.
© 2011 AFP