February 15, 2010

Russian Rocket Launch Delayed

Interfax news agency reported on Friday that the first launch of a Russian space rocket from a site has been delayed.

A modified Soyuz cargo ship has been expected to lift off from Europe's spaceport in French Guiana by the end of this year.  Its closeness to the equator means that not as much fuel is needed to reach a geostationary orbit, as apposed to the amount needed to launch from Russia's Baikonur site in Kazakhstan.

The new cargo ship can carry up to 3 tons of payload into orbit, which is double the weight that can be launched from Baikonur. 

"The first launch of the Soyuz-ST rocket is not possible before the end of the year," Vladimir Gnezdilov the general director of Mir, a contractor involved in the launch was quoted by Interfax as saying.

The delays have been blamed on the installation of a mobile service tower 9 miles from the launch site for European Ariane launches.  Engineers will be running further tests on the tower in the coming months.

Once the Space Shuttles at NASA are retired at the end of the year, the Soyuz capsules will be the only way to supply the International Space Station with more payload and astronauts.

French Guiana's spaceport could be altered for human spaceflight use by Soyuz launchers, however there are no plans yet to do so.


Image Caption: Artist's impression of a Soyuz liftoff at Europe's Spaceport in French Guiana. Credit: ESA