Russia has postponed the next submarine test launch of its troubled intercontinental nuclear missile Bulava until 2011, originally scheduled for 17 December.

An unidentified defence industry source said the White Sea region, from where the Bulava was to be launched, was covered with ice, according to Reuters.

“The exact date of the next test launch of the Bulava in 2011 is not yet decided, but it will take place in the first half of the year,” the source said.

The 12m-long, 37t Bulava missile, which could be made the cornerstone of Russia’s nuclear arsenal over the next decade, will not enter service until tests prove it to be 98%-99% reliable.

The $3bn project missile is capable of holding six to ten nuclear warheads, which would deliver an impact of up to 100 times the Hiroshima atomic blast in 1945.