Soyuz launch of Resurs-P 3 following a rare pad abort

Soyuz, the modern incarnation of the venerable R-7 family, is an astonishingly reliable rocket.  It’s also got an absolutely unique design that is instantly recognizable, with its four tapered booster rockets clustered around the core stage.  Scrubs are rare, thanks in no small part to the reliable weather at most of its launch sites, and aborts are almost unheard of. (Though they have happened, most famously on what would have become Soyuz 10 had the rocket not exploded on the pad.  It was the only recorded instance of a crew needing to use their escape tower.  It worked, and both men survived to fly again.  As a side note, both cosmonauts would later fly aboard the Space Shuttle, so they had long careers after their very brief flight in 1983.)

The Resurs-P 3 launch went off today, but only after a very rare pad abort yesterday.  The vehicle was seen on its pad at Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, , but the countdown was halted about twenty seconds before the engines were to start.  No word was given, but the video feed showed the servicing towers move away, then a puff of vapor near the bottom of the rocket, followed by the vehicle again venting, a sign that the tanks were not pressurizing for launch.  The video feed was then cut, likely due to the decision not to launch.

But today, they recycled the countdown and it went off without a hitch!  The Resurs-P #3 Earth observation payload has arrived successfully in the target orbit, and will spend some time adjusting to its final orbit before beginning its mapping activities.  The spacecraft will provide black-and-white high resolution imagery for commercial, civil, and scientific users.


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