Russia Launches New Angara 5 Rocket
Russia successfully conducted the first test launch of its new Angara 5 launch vehicle today (December 23, 2014), just six months after a suborbital test flight of a smaller version of the rocket, Angara 1.2.
Russian officials said at the time of the Angara 1.2 launch that the Angara 5 would liftoff in December, but there had been so many delays in the program that it seemed optimistic. Russian news reports throughout the summer and fall continued to say that it would launch around Christmastime, however, and recently named December 23 as the date.
Live coverage of the launch from Russia's Plesetsk launch site was not provided, but replays are now posted on YouTube.
Russian President Vladimir Putin hailed the rocket as serving both economic and defense needs saying it can be used for "the system of early warning of missile attacks, reconnaissance, navigation, communication and re-transmission of signals for defense purposes." Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin praised it as tribute to the country's fortitude: "It is great joy for all of us. In this difficult time it will be our best response to sanctions and to unprecedented external financial, economic and political pressure on our country."
Angara is family of launch vehicles that can lift payloads of varying sizes to different orbits. Russian sources list different capabilities, but Russia's space agency Roscosmos today reported that the range is from 3.8 to 35 tons (presumably to low Earth orbit--LEO). The capability to geostationary orbit (GEO) is often listed as 3.4 tons.
The launch at 08:57 Moscow Time (00:57 Eastern Standard Time) today placed a 2-ton dummy satellite into GEO using a Briz-M upper stage (the payload reportedly was intended to remain attached to the upper stage all the way to GEO).
One goal of the Angara program is to replace rockets that were developed decades ago, like Proton and Soyuz, with a modern, environmentally friendly model. Angara uses kerosene and liquid oxygen. It will also be launched from Plesetsk and a new launch site still under construction in Siberia called Vostochny. That would free Russia from its dependence on the Baikonur Cosmodrome, which it leases from Kazakhstan, for many types of launches.
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