Rus-M, successor to Soyuz, cancelled

Washington DC
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Russian space agency Roscosmos has cancelled the Rus-M launch vehicle programme.

Roscosmos leader Vladimir Popovkin, speaking before the Duma (parliament) on 7 October, confirmed the end of the Rus-M programme. The launch vehicle, designed specifically for human spaceflight, was cancelled over funding issues.

"We have come to the conclusion that we do not need a new rocket, we can continue using those we already have," Popovkin reportedly told legislators.

Rus-M was to have replaced the manned missions and smaller payloads carried by the venerable Soyuz rocket. Soyuz, the world's most-launched rocket by a large margin, soldiers on using 1960s-era technology. With the Rus-M cancellation, a likely option is further incremental upgrades to Soyuz.

Other capital programmes, including the Angara launch vehicle to replace the aging Proton, and Vostichniy launch site in Siberia, will proceed. Rus-M, nominally preparing for a first flight in 2015, suffered from chronic underinvestment.

In addition to the strain of political turbulence in the Russian space industry, Roscosmos suffered from a series of high-profile launch failures earlier in 2011.