Nail-biting start for Russia’s new Vostochny space centre

Nail-biting start for Russia’s new Vostochny space centre

Source By bbc…

“Oh please, darling, fly!”

A technician standing behind me was really nervous during the launch countdown at Vostochny, a new space centre in Russia’s Far East.

It was the second launch attempt – a day after the previous one had been aborted at the last minute.

I noticed that some of the technician’s colleagues also had pale faces and had crossed their fingers.

It emerged later that a cable malfunction had led to the postponement of Wednesday’s launch.

This time there was relief for Russia’s federal space agency, Roscosmos, as the Soyuz rocket, carrying three satellites, blasted off and the booster stage separated.

President Vladimir Putin had travelled 5,500km (3,500 miles) to watch the launch and was in a black mood after Wednesday’s cancellation, berating Vostochny’s managers for the financial scandals that have blighted this prestige project.

Russian Soyuz 2.1a rocket carrying three satellites lifts off from Vostochny, 28 Apr 16Image copyrightReuters
Image captionRussia wants to show international partners that it is still a superpower in space
Vladimir Putin watches the launch of unmanned Soyuz-2.1A rocket at the Vostochny cosmodrome (28 April 2016)Image copyrightReuters
Image captionPresident Putin watched the unmanned rocket lift off successfully on Thursday

As the rocket soared away from Earth the tension evaporated – the crowd around me was laughing, hugging, drinking champagne.

Only the essential launchpad structures have been finished at Vostochny, which is still a big building site. The original plan was to have it all ready by December 2015.

When we inspected the launchpad later it appeared to be in good shape. A huge metal covering for the service cabin had plunged onto a concrete chute for the rocket exhaust gases. But a specialist insisted that the damage was not serious.

View of the launch tower
Image captionA giant tower holds the rocket in place before launch
Casing broken off at launch pad (April 2016)
Image captionThe fierce blast during lift-off sent this metal covering crashing to the ground from the tower


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