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Russia launches new Angara A5 rocket on second test flight in nighttime liftoff

Six years after acing its first test flight, Russia's monster Angara A5 heavy-lift rocket (opens in new tab) has done it again.

The rocket launched flawlessly Monday (Dec. 14) from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome in northern Russia at 12:50 a.m. EST (0550 GMT or 8:50 a.m. Moscow time), according to Russian space agency Roscosmos (opens in new tab). Roscosmos also confirmed the Breeze-M upper stage and a mock spacecraft successfully separated from the launch vehicle 12 minutes and 28 seconds after the liftoff.

This new test flight comes almost exactly six years after the Angara A5, on its first test flight (opens in new tab), successfully placed a two-ton dummy payload into geosynchronous orbit in December 2014.

Video: Russia launches heavy-lift Angara A5 rocket on test flight (opens in new tab)
Meet Angara, Russia's next-generation rocket (photos) (opens in new tab) 

"Angara rockets do not use aggressive and toxic propellants, significantly increasing environmental safety both in the areas adjacent to the launch complex and in the drop zones," Roscosmos said in a statement (opens in new tab). "Russia's Ministry of Defense and Roscosmos are the government customers of the Angara space rocket complex, with Khrunichev Center being the lead developer and manufacturer."

Once the rocket line is ready to go, Angara will allow Russia to launch geostationary-orbiting satellites from its own territory using environmentally friendly fuel. These satellites are launched now from the Baikonur Cosmodrome (opens in new tab) in Kazakhstan aboard the Proton rocket (opens in new tab) line, which uses toxic hydrazine fuel.

This second test flight was supposed to take place in 2016, but production and delivery issues with parts and subcontractors delayed the mission four extra years, according to (opens in new tab). The rocket was also supposed to take an operational payload in space, but it was decided to take another dummy payload aloft when the launch date became uncertain, the website added.

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Elizabeth Howell
Elizabeth Howell

Elizabeth Howell, Ph.D., is a staff writer in the spaceflight channel since 2022. She was contributing writer for (opens in new tab) for 10 years before that, since 2012. As a proud Trekkie and Canadian, she also tackles topics like diversity, science fiction, astronomy and gaming to help others explore the universe. Elizabeth's on-site reporting includes two human spaceflight launches from Kazakhstan, three space shuttle missions in Florida, and embedded reporting from a simulated Mars mission in Utah. She holds a Ph.D. and M.Sc. in Space Studies from the University of North Dakota, and a Bachelor of Journalism from Canada's Carleton University. Elizabeth is also a post-secondary instructor in communications and science since 2015. Her latest book, Leadership Moments from NASA, is co-written with astronaut Dave Williams. Elizabeth first got interested in space after watching the movie Apollo 13 in 1996, and still wants to be an astronaut someday.