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Launch of new Russian space rocket aborted moments before blastoff as Putin watched

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MOSCOW - The first launch of Russia's new space rocket after two decades of development was aborted Friday moments before its blastoff as President Vladimir Putin was watching via live feed.

The botched attempt to launch the Angara booster rocket was the latest mishap to dog Russia's troubled space industries, whose Soviet-era glory has faded in a series of launch failures.

Angara is built to replace the Soyuz, a workhorse of the Soviet and then Russian space program, designed more than four decades ago.

Space officials said that an automatic safety system aborted the rocket's blastoff from the Plesetsk launch pad in northwestern Russia for an unspecified reason. Putin ordered Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu to investigate and report the cause.

The launch was tentatively put off until Saturday.

Last month, the launch of Russia's Proton-M booster also ended in failure, and the same type of rocket also suffered launch failure last July, leading to the loss of three navigation satellites. The July mishap was tracked to a flaw in the assembly line process involving a poorly qualified worker.

Observers say post-Soviet Russia's space program has been hampered by a brain drain and a steady erosion of engineering and quality standards.

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