Fresh off of losing two rockets in the last sixty days trouble continued for Russia's ailing space program as it announced on Friday that the first launch of a manned spacecraft from the new Vostochny Cosmodrome is now slated for 2023.
That's three years later than originally planned, the head of Roscosmos, Igor Komarov, said Friday.
Vostochny is a $3 billion spaceport under construction in the Amur region of Russia's Far East, which is intended to ensure Russia's independent access to space by easing reliance on the aging and not on Russian soil Baikonur complex in Kazakhstan.
But the project, like the Sochi games or 2018 World Cup, has been plagued by corruption and missed construction deadlines.
“The first launch under the manned [spaceflight] program from Vostochny will take place in 2023,” Komarov was quoted as saying during a tour of the construction.
The first launch is slated to be an Angara-5V, which first launched in July last year. The V variant will be adapted to the safety standards required to launch astronauts.
The target deadline for manned launches from Vostochny aboard Soyuz rockets was prior to 2020, but last month newspaper Kommersant reported that the modified Angara rocket would be used instead. The modifications will take several years to complete, pushing the first manned launch past 2020, though it is likely this decision was taken due to construction issues and not the need for a new rocket.
Russia is not only struggling with corruption but is also having funding issues with Putin's ambitious space program because of heavy economic sanctions placed on Russia for invading Ukraine.
Komarov said, “work on the Angara heavy rocket class is proceeding in two stages. First, we are preparing the launch complex for a launch of Angara in 2021 with an unmanned spacecraft.”
“The next step will be the creation of a second launch pad for the [heavy] Angara-A5, and […] the Angara-5V, [which] will carry a next generation manned spacecraft,” he said.
Komarov did not specify which exact spacecraft would be launched by the Angara-5V, but it is possible that it could be the long awaited New Generation Piloted Transport Ship, designed by Russia's largest spaceship builder, RSC Energia.
The move would come a few years after NASA's new SLS vehicle debuts and also after SpaceX and Boeing launch their own commercial manned spacecraft.