TechAngara A5 Rocket Launch Stalled: Russia's Space Ambitions in Jeopardy

Angara A5 Rocket Launch Stalled: Russia's Space Ambitions in Jeopardy

Angara A5 rocket on the launch pad of the Vostochny Cosmodrome.
Angara A5 rocket on the launch pad of the Vostochny Cosmodrome.
Images source: © East News | HANDOUT
1:01 PM EDT, April 9, 2024

The scheduled launch of the Angara A5 rocket on April 9 from the Vostochny Cosmodrome, nestled in the forests of the Amur region, was halted less than two minutes before liftoff. This piece delves into the current state of what was once the shining beacon of hope for the Russian space program.

The event streamed live on The Launch Pad channel, but we saw an unexpected interruption during the final moments of the countdown. The reasons for the aborted launch remain unclear, though the mission will likely be delayed by at least 24 hours, as Reuters reports.

Angara Rockets: Once the Pinnacle of Russian Aerospace Ambitions

Łukasz Michalik of Virtual Poland outlines that the Angara program, initiated in the 1990s, represents Russia's most significant aerospace effort since the collapse of the Soviet Union. Its goal was to replace the older Soyuz rockets, the hazardous Proton rockets with their toxic fuel, and the smaller Ukrainian Dnepr and Russian Rokot rockets. Despite its ambitious beginnings, the program has seen a mere six launches in its 30-year history.

The Angara rockets boast a modular design capable of accommodating various payloads. At their core is the universal rocket module, URM (универсальный ракетный модуль), powered by the RD-191 engine. This engine produces a thrust of 431,022 pounds-force at sea level and 469,737 pounds-force in a vacuum.

Configurations can range from a single module to five, depending on the mission's needs. The lift capacity extends up to just over 24 metric tons for low-Earth orbit missions and about 16,500 pounds for geostationary transfers.

It's crucial to note that Russia's role as a cost-effective orbital courier is under threat, especially in the wake of SpaceX's emergence as a spaceflight juggernaut. The Angara program, which took off on its inaugural flight in December 2014, seeks to reclaim this competitive edge.

The thwarted launch was set to be the program's fourth test mission and the first from the Vostochny Cosmodrome, which has been operational since 2016. Each of the previous Angara launches was conducted at the Plesetsk Cosmodrome.

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