First rocket finally departs Russia's Vostochny cosmodrome

Putin witnesses inaugural Soyuz launch

The Soyuz departs Vostochny cosmodrome. Image: Roscosmos

Russian president Vladimir Putin was on hand earlier today to witness the first launch from Russia's new Vostochny cosmodrome, as a Soyuz lifter carried three satellites* heavenwards.

The rocket departed the launchpad at 05:01 Moscow time (02:01 GMT), following a 24-hour knock-back due to a technical glitch.

Two views of the Soyuz on the launchpad at Vostochny. Pics: Roscosmos

Shiny new cosmodrome. The Soyuz on the pad at Vostochny earlier today. Pics: Roscosmos

In fact, the first Vostochny cosmodrome launch was planned for December last year, but construction overruns at the site in Russia's Eastern Amur region put a serious dent in the schedule.

The project has also been hit by corruption scandals which, according to the BBC, have resulted in four arrests. Putin grimly warned: "If their guilt is proven, they will have to change their warm beds at home for plank-beds in prison."

The president was more upbeat about finally getting Vostochny into service. He told staff from Russian space agency Roscosmos: "I want to congratulate you. There’s a lot to be proud of. The launch could technically have taken place yesterday, but the hardware overreacted and it was aborted. But that's a normal occurrence.

"Most importantly, the launch complex you developed is operating, functioning well. There’s a lot of work up ahead, but this was certainly a very serious, significant step in the development of Russian cosmonautics."

The Soyuz in flight following the launch. Pic: Roscosmos

Congratulations, and vodkas all round. The Soyuz soars heavenwards earlier today. Pic: Roscosmos

Vostochny cosmodrome is intended to reduce Russian reliance on Baikonur in Kazakhstan. Work on various launchpads is ongoing, but it'll ultimately host 10 launches a year. ®


* "Scientific satellite Mikhailo Lomonosov, an experimental nanosatellite SamSat-218 and a civilian distance viewing satellite Aist-2D." The trio were placed into orbit by a Volga upper stage.

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