Russian rocket fails after launch

The failure of Proton-M, carrying a Mexican satellite, is the latest mishap to hit Russia's troubled space industry.

    The rocket was launched from the Russia-leased Baikonur launchpad in Kazakhstan [Reuters]
    The rocket was launched from the Russia-leased Baikonur launchpad in Kazakhstan [Reuters]

    A Russian rocket malfunctioned and burnt up over Siberia minutes after launch, the latest in a series of mishaps for Russia's space industry.

    The Proton-M, carrying a Mexican satellite, malfunctioned shortly after its launch from Kazakhstan on Saturday .

    Roscosmos, the Russian Federal Space Agency, said a problem involving steering engines occurred in the rocket's third stage about eight minutes into its flight, 161km (97 miles) above the Earth.

    The agency said the rocket and Boeing-constructed satellite did not reach their planned orbit and almost all of the debris from the two burned up in the atmosphere.

    Authorities in eastern Siberia still searched for any possible debris in the Zabaikalsky region bordering Mongolia and China, Russian news agencies reported. There was no word if any was found.

    The last failed launch of a Proton-M occurred exactly a year ago, also causing the loss of a telecommunications satellite. Since then, there have been six successful flights.

    The Interfax news agency quoted industry sources as saying the crash could result in the suspension of all upcoming Proton-M launches, including the next one in June for a British satellite.

    In a separate space failure on Saturday, Roscosmos also reported that a Progress spaceship attached to the International Space Station failed to ignite its engine, thus failing to adjust the orbit of the space station. The agency said it was looking into why that happened, but added that the space station's crew was not in any danger from the incident.

    Russia's space programme has seen a string of launch failures in recent years. Space experts say the programme has been hampered by a brain drain and a steady erosion of engineering and quality standards.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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