* Launch "automatically aborted" at eleventh-hour
* Russia wants to end reliance on Kazakh launch pad
* Decades in the making, Angara part of space industry
* Planned heavy-lift Angara to replace troubled Proton
(Adds detail, scene description)
By Alissa de Carbonnel and Maria Tsvetkova
MOSCOW, June 27 Russia was forced to abandon
Friday's debut launch of its first new space rocket since the
Soviet era when the Angara booster cut out during a final
countdown watched by President Vladimir Putin via video link
from the Kremlin.
Angara is seen as a test of Russia's ability to turn around
a once-pioneering space industry struggling to recover from a
loss of highly trained specialists and years of budget curbs. It
is also part of a move to consolidate the space programme on
Russian soil, breaking dependence on other ex-Soviet republics.
A senior military commander told Putin an automatic system
had aborted the launch, without giving a reason for the delay,
but that it had been put back for 24 hours until Saturday.
More than two decades in the making, the new generation
rocket is a centrepiece of Putin's plan to reform the
once-pioneering space industry and launch satellites from a new
space port being built in Russia's far east.
The video link showed the Angara-1.2PP rocket begin to shake
in its start position at the northern Plesetsk military launch
pad, but a silence descended on the Kremlin conference room as
the seconds stretched out and the launch failed to go ahead.
"The automatic system aborted the launch," Alexander
Golovko, commander of Russia's Air and Space Defence Forces told
Putin, who ordered a report on the cause of the delay.
The development of the Angara - a new generation of rockets
entirely designed and built within post-Soviet Russia's borders
- is intended to break a reliance on foreign suppliers and the
Baikonur launchpad Russia leases from Kazakhstan.
"This is the first launch vehicle that has been developed
and built from scratch in Russia," Igor Lissov, an expert with
trade journal Novosti Kosmonovatiki. "Everything else we have is
a modernisation of our Soviet legacy."
Work on the Angara began two years after the break up of the
Soviet Union when Moscow lost the maker of its workhorse Zenit
and Dnepr rockets in newly-independent Ukraine and its main
launch facility in Kazakhstan.
For some industry insiders, the crisis in Moscow's relations
with Kiev over its annexation of Crimea and a separatist
rebellion in the eastern Ukraine proves Russia's need to produce
and launch its rockets domestically.
"This (project) decision was made already way back in 1993,
with an awareness that our former Soviet allies can ditch us at
any moment," Lissov said.
A potential commercial rival to Arianespace of France and
Californian-based SpaceX, the modular launcher is designed to
carry military and civilian payloads of up to 25 tonnes.
Its heavier cousin Angara 5, which space officials said is
set for a test launch in late December, is to replace Russia's
workhorse Proton rocket, which has suffered an embarrassing
litany of costly botched launches.
But both rockets are made by the same builder, the
Khrunichev space centre, leading to fears that Angara - named
after a Siberian river - will suffer similar troubles.
"There is absolutely no guarantee that Angara, which is
built by the same industry, by the same company, by the same
people will be immune to these problems," said Anatoly Zak,
editor of the industry website Russianspaceweb.
"Twenty years of development is over but we are at the very
beginning of the flight testing."
Unlike the Proton, powered by toxic hydrazine fuel, Angara
uses an ecologically cleaner mix of liquid oxygen and kerosene.
Its medium-lift version, Angara-3, is due to complement the
Soviet-era Soyuz - currently the only rocket ferrying astronauts
to the International Space Station from Baikonur.
Years of strapped budgets when many experts quit the space
industry have led to long project delays and ballooning costs
from Angara. "It became extremely overpriced," Zak said.
The Angara rockets will probably become commercially
competitive only in another decade, he said, if launched from
the new cosmodrome Russia plans at Vostochny, closer to the
equator, where less energy is needed to carry payloads into
(Writing by Alissa de Carbonnel,; Editing)