No news is bad news for Bulava. It wasn't a good sign that there were no reports about the Bulava flight test that was reportedly scheduled for yesterday, July 15, 2009. Now the first reports suggest that the test failed, although the reason for failure is not yet clear. I hope we'll get more information in the day or two.

Another failure (that would be seventh failure in eleven tests) would certainly provoke a serious soul searching in Russia. It is probably too late to shut the program down, but the fact that the industry is not able to get the missile to fly (whether it is the issues of design or production quality control) is quite worrying.

The thing to keep in mind, though, is it's not like Russia really needs Bulava - it could maintain perfectly adequate strategic force without it. But Russia chose to invest a lot of political capital into the project (here is an interesting piece in NYT that makes this point). Now it discovering that this strategy has its risks - a high-profile program may fail.

UPDATE 07/16/09: RIA Novosti now reports that it was a failure of the first stage.