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Russian engineers have found a problem with Freget upper stage used on their Soyuz rocket and set for an Arianespace commercial launch in French Guiana this spring.
According to the source, “a microhole has been found in one of the upper stage’s pipes, which apparently emerged during a long transportation of the booster to the spaceport in French Guiana.”
“Now the specialists of the Lavochkin Research and Production Association [Fregat’s manufacturer] are dealing with this malfunction, by the end of the week they should specify the types of the works needed for eliminating it,” the source said.
The launch may be postponed from late February until March due to this situation.
This problem might not be related to Russia’s ongoing quality control problems. It could simply be a consequence of the difficulty of shipping a rocket across the globe. At the same time, the thought must not be dismissed. They say the microhole occurred during transport, but there is no way to confirm this.
Either way, the problem and delay does not do the Russians good. I wonder if OneWeb, the commercial customer for this flight, is beginning to have regrets about its contract for 21 Soyuz launches to get a large percentage of its satellite constellation into orbit.