Russian Rocket Fails After Officials Announce Its Success
A Russian rocket failed to put a communications satellite into orbit on Saturday, the second botched effort in five months. Compounding the embarrassment for International Launch Services Inc and Khrunichev State Research and Production Space Center was a press release from the satellite's manufacturer, Thales Alenia Space, which declared the launch a success.
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After the Russian rocket failed when an upper-stage engine malfunctioned, putting the satellite outside its intended orbit, officials were forced to correct the release from Thales and admit that, once again, the Russian rocket failed. The Russian-built Proton rocket launched at 8:13 a.m. on Saturday from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, carrying the Yamal 402 communications satellite.
"Khrunichev and ILS regret to announce an anomaly during the launch of the Yamal 402 satellite," ILS said in a statement.
The rocket was intended to place Yamal 402 into an orbit with an apogee of 35,696 kilometers and a perigee of 7,470 kilometers, with the orbit at a nine-degree inclination relative to the equator. The Russian rocket failure placed is at a perigee of around 3,100 kilometers, with an inclination of 26 degrees.
Thales Alenia is now considering possible recovery plans for the satellite. Most satellites have their own propulsion systems on board for making minor adjustments in orbit, and the Yamal 402 was fully fueled before being launched into orbit. It will likely be able to reach its intended orbit by use of its own propulsion systems, but at a great cost to its fuel reserves, which would significantly shorten its lifespan.
The latest failure of the Proton rocket is one of several botched launches for Russia's space agency, Roscosmos The most high-profile rocket failure occurred in August of 2011 when an unmanned Soyuz rocket failed to deliver cargo to the International Space Station and called into question Russia's ability to deliver supplies and manpower to the ISS.
Russia loses more than pride when a rocket fails.
Mexican satellite operator Satmex has a launch scheduled for Dec. 28 for its latest communications satellite Satmex 8. The Satmex 8 is replacing the Satmex 5 which will run out fuel by May. If Russia cannot guarantee the success of the Satmex 8, a satellite the company desperately needs in orbit to stay in business, then the Mexican company could go elsewhere, taking their undisclosed launch fees with them.
ILS, an American-based company, said it would launch its own independent investigation alongside a Russian government inquiry into what caused the Proto rocket to fail four minutes into its nine-minute final stage.
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