Roscosmos: Even an iron breaks sometimes, and a rocket is far more complex

A Souyuz 2.1a space carrier with Russian satellites Lomonosov, Aist-2D and a SamSat-216 nano satellite sits on the launch pad at Vostochny cosmodrome.

A Souyuz 2.1a space carrier with Russian satellites Lomonosov, Aist-2D and a SamSat-216 nano satellite sits on the launch pad at Vostochny cosmodrome.

Marina Lystseva/TASS/RIA Novosti
The first ever launch at the Vostochny cosmodrome on April 27 was called off one and a half minutes before takeoff. The launch of the Soyuz-2.1a rocket is now scheduled for April 28. Igor Burenkov, official representative of the state-owned Roscosmos Corporation, spoke to Kommersant FM radio.

Can you speak now of the reasons for the cancelation? Is there any information?

Igor Burenkov: We still have to wait for the decision of the committee, which, obviously, will understand what happened. But the most important thing is that there was no accident, there are no problems. On the contrary, we can see that the telemetry works very well, that the cosmodrome's systems were fully in order. They provide us with all the information about the launch, which is very important, especially for Vostochny, which is now in the trial phase.

We are now finishing up the construction of the first phase and, as is known, we were ready for the launch, but then the automatic systems showed that we needed to conduct some more tests, verifications, which is actually what the specialists are doing now. We have a reserve date: April 28, at 05:01 Moscow time. For now this hasn't changed. I think this will happen.

It must be noted that such things occur rather frequently. Basically, our foreign colleagues also experience such things, those space powers that are technologically advanced. In general, technology is a very serious thing. Even an iron breaks sometimes, and if we speak about a rocket, then it is a far more complex mechanism.

Igor Burenkov. Source: Marina Lystseva/TASS/RIA Novosti

Can you explain what exactly happened, why the automatic systems reacted that way, what were the complications?

I.B.: The committee is now trying to understand what exactly went wrong. The automatic systems give a general signal that informs about certain malfunctions in the system and this is the malfunctioning that the specialists are now trying to understand.

It is important to understand right away what the problem is, so that, for example, the rocket doesn't detach from the ground and doesn't fly anywhere. And when you begin to understand that something has really gone wrong, then it is impossible to get the rocket back. But here we were able to save the rocket carrier and a useful cargo in the form of three satellites, which will be launched from the rocket.

But the fact that this all happened one and a half minutes before take-off, is this also a normal practice?

I.B.: Sure, this happens. It is very difficult to predict when exactly a shutoff will take place. It is important that the telemetry showed that such a situation had occurred and now it can be fixed. But, I repeat, if the rocket had already taken off, it would have been too late to fix the situation.

Do you think there will be any harm done to the image of the cosmodrome, Roscosmos and Russia in general?

I.B.: Obviously, there is nothing to be jumping for joy about. This is an unpleasant situation but it often happens.

I'd like to underline again that the cosmodrome is still in the trial phase and therefore we understand that testing is still being done, all the functioning services are being checked, all the cosmodrome's technical characteristics. The fact that all this is working normally and showing good possibilities for reading all the parameters of these carriers and space apparatuses is great.

That is why from this viewpoint it’s very good. Because we see that the cosmodrome is functioning normally, perfectly.

We also know that the president has already held a meeting, that he is already at the cosmodrome. Do you know what was discussed at the meeting, which decisions may be taken, what the president spoke about?

I.B.: I think the president's press office will say what he spoke about. Regarding the meeting, the important thing to understand here is that the technical specialists are working and that the situation concerning the rocket carrier will be prepared by those who are obliged to know about it. Our aim at the moment is just to wait for information and as soon as it arrives, we will definitely disclose it.

First published in Russian in Kommersant.

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