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The heat of competition: Russia has finally admitted that it will not be able to fly manned missions from its new Vostochny spaceport in 2018, and had instead rescheduled that first flight for sometime in 2025.
The reasons were not spelled out, and it was unclear if financial considerations were behind the delay.
Space agency spokesman Mikhail Fadeyev made clear the change of plan in stating: ‘The first manned flight from the Vostochny Cosmodrome is scheduled for 2025 with an Angara-AV5 rocket, according to the federal space programme.’ The move reflected the ‘founding principle of Vostochny as an innovative cosmodrome’, he claimed. Under the plan, the first test flight of the Angara-A5B is scheduled for 2023, while the rocket’s first unmanned flight is slated for 2024.
Russian prime minister Dmitry Medvedev recently visited the spaceport, stressing the importance of the first unmanned launch, due in four months from now, being a success. His statement appeared to allow for the possibility of slippage in this timetable also.
Vostochny was first proposed in 2007, so that means it will take Russia almost two decades to get this spaceport ready for manned flights. Only a government operation, designed to create jobs instead of accomplishing something, takes such an ungodly long time to get finished.
Meanwhile, Russia will continue to use Baikonur for manned flight for at least one more decade.