Soyuz “Lite” Test Failure

According to a report on russianspaceweb, a test firing of the new Soyuz “lite” rocket failed on August 16th, possibly causing damage to the test facility. The new rocket is a less expensive version of the venerable Soyuz booster which employing a single NK-33 engine instead of the conventional sustainer core with 4 liquid strap-on boosters which has powered the Soyuz since the earliest days of the space era.

In the report, which is so far unconfirmed by official sources, a failure in shutdown command for a 4 nozzle RD-0110R steering motor initiated the problem, which was magnified when the main NK-33 continued to fire until it ran out of liquid oxygen resulting in a main turbopump failure which damaged both the rocket and the test stand.  Subsequent reports traced the failure to an error in programming the test stand.

Although quite possibly an isolated incident, the event if confirmed comes amidst growing concern over the status of the Russian space infrastructure which has recently witnessed a string of highly visible and embarrassing failures both the Proton and Soyuz launch vehicle families.

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