MOSCOW, March 14 (RIA Novosti) – The first launch of Russia's new Soyuz-2.1V lightweight carrier rocket, scheduled for early 2013, is now likely to be delayed until the second half of 2013, its maker Progress said on Thursday.
“The first launch of the Soyuz-2.1V rocket has been preliminarily scheduled for the second half of this year,” Progress design bureau's general director Alexander Kirilin said, without specifying the reasons for the delay.
Russia originally planned to launch the first Soyuz-2.1V in October but that was postponed after a failed ground test of its first-stage engines in August, Progress said.
Last December, the commander of Russia's Aerospace Defense Forces, Maj.Gen. Alexander Golovko, said the first Soyuz 2.1V launch would take place at the start of 2013.
The new rocket is a modernized version of the Soyuz-2.1B, from which the Soyuz rocket's trademark four external booster rockets have been removed. The first stage is equipped with a rocket engine derived from the legendary NK-33, according to the Plesetsk cosmodrome website. The NK-33 was developed in the 1970's to carry Soviet cosmonauts to the moon onboard the giant N1 rocket.
The rocket is capable of delivering a payload of up to 2.85 tons (6,300 lb) to an orbit at an altitude of 200 kilometers (120 miles), Progress claims.
Soyuz-2.1V launches may be carried out from upgraded launch pads at the Plesetsk Space Center in northwestern Russia and the Baikonur Space Center in Kazakhstan.