The next flight test of the Bulava missile will not take place until summer of 2010, according to the Russian media, who quote a source in the Russian Navy. The plan is to conduct two more tests of the missile from its current test bed, Dmitry Donskoy submarine, and then, if these tests are successful, test the missile from the Yuri Dolgorukiy submarine some time in the fall.
This decision, as well as the decision to postpone the construction of the fourth submarine of the Project 955 class, are a natural reaction to the latest failure of the missile test program. Even in the best circumstances, the lead submarine of the Project 955 class - Yuri Dolgorukiy - will not be able to begin service until some time in 2011. And that's the optimistic scenario. (It may be worth remembering that in 2005 the Navy expected to have two submarines equipped with Bulava missiles in 2006.) And the chances that Sevmash will actually start construction of the fourth Project 955 hull now seem fairly dim.
UPDATE 01/12/10: Vedomosti quotes a source close to the investigation of the last failure as saying that the cause of the failure was a malfunction of the "trust control mechanism of the third-stage motor".
The motor is Elements of the third stage motor are produced by the NPO Iskra in Perm.
UPDATE 01/12/10: According to other reports, there might be more than two test launches from Dmitri Donskoy in 2010.