30 December 2013

New version of Soyuz successfully launched saturday

Image Credit: Russian Federal Space Agency

After numerous delays earlier in the week, Russia successfully launched the Soyuz-2.1v, an upgraded version of its venerable series of spacecraft, at 16:30 Moscow time (12:30 GMT) on Saturday.

According to RIA Novosti, the rocket lifted off from the Plesetsk space center in northern Russia. The launch had originally been scheduled for Monday, but was delayed repeatedly due to concerns over a possible engine malfunction.

“The light-weight rocket Soyuz, which blasted off from Plesetsk [Cosmodrome], has successfully placed its upper stage and three satellites into an interim orbit,” a Defense Ministry spokesman told The Voice of Russia. “The satellites are expected to reach their designated orbits in several hours.”

The Soyuz family of launch vehicles has been around since the 1960s, and was designed by the Korolyov Design Bureau as a replacement for the Voskhod spacecraft. The new Soyuz-2.1v features an entirely new first stage that is powered by an a NK-33 (14D15) rocket engine built by the NK Engines Company.

The successful launch will help give “a boost to the country’s troubled space program,” according to Reuters reporters Megan Davies and Alissa de Carbonnel. “Despite an improved budget, Moscow’s space program has suffered a series of humiliating launch failures in recent years that industry veterans blame on poor management.”

“The Soyuz, the most frequently launched rocket in the world, has undergone more than 1,700 launches since its debut in 1966,” added RIA Novosti. “It is one of only two rockets worldwide that are capable of sending astronauts into orbit, the other being the Chinese Long March 2F.”

On Friday, Russian cosmonauts Oleg Kotov and Sergey Ryazanskiy attempted to install a pair of high-fidelity cameras on a combination biaxial pointing platform on the International Space Station (ISS). However, attempts to install the devices, which will be used to take pictures of Earth as part of a Canadian commercial endeavor, were unsuccessful due to an issue with the electrical connections.

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