Russia-launched satellite plunges into Pacific (Update)

Feb 01, 2013 by Dmitry Zaks
A Russian Zenit-3SL rocket carrying a telecommunications satellite blasts off from the Kazakhstan's Baikonur cosmodrome on October 6, 2011. A Russian rocket carrying a US telecommunications satellite has plunged into the Pacific Ocean, only moments after being launched from a mobile sea platform in Moscow's latest space failure.

A Russian rocket carrying a US telecommunications satellite plunged into the Pacific Ocean on Friday only moments after being launched from a mobile sea platform in Moscow's latest space failure.

The rocket may have veered off course from the moment of take-off because of heavy waves battering the former northern seas oil platform, initial reports said.

The Intelsat-27's loss means the giant Boeing aerospace corporation would for now be unable to fit the final piece of a constellation mean to provide TV feeds across Europe and the United States.

"There was an accident during the Zenit rocket launch," a source at the Energia corporation that makes the Zenit-3SL rocket used to lift up Intelsat satellites told AFP.

"The rocket fell into the Pacific Ocean."

Officials said no one was hurt on the huge Odyssey platform that was once stationed off the oil-rich coast of Norway before being tugged to the Pacific by an international consortium called Sea Launch.

Energia chief Vitaly Lopota said the Russian rocket's engine appeared to fail less than a minute after the evening take-off but the reason was still unknown reason.

"We had an abnormal situation—the emergency shutdown of the first stage engine," Lopota told the state RIA Novosti news agency.

"It happened 50 seconds into the flight. We are now looking into what happened."

Several Russian media reports said the platform itself was unstable at the time of the launch because of heavy weather.

Sources said the Zenit had purposefully steered itself as far away from the Odyssey as possible—instead of going straight up—because the engines detected a problem and were programmed to save the ground crew.

"The rockets detected an abnormal situation linked to platform instability from the very start, and then switched the engines over (to operations) aimed at steering the rocket away from the platform," a space industry source told the Interfax news agency.

Sea Launch has been using the deep-sea platform to perform commercial operations since 1999. There had been only two complete failures out of the 34 missions conducted prior to Friday's launch.

But analysts said Sea Launch—having emerged from bankruptcy protection in October 2010 after years of financial difficulties—will be keen to prove that the accident was an anomaly that should not affect future launches.

"This accident is very unpleasant for Sea Launch, which only recently started to repair its reputation on the commercial space services market," said Moscow's Space News magazine editor Igor Marinin.

Russia's space programme is now especially closely watched because it provides the world's only manned link to the International Space Station (ISS).

The country's space programme also leads the world in the number of commercial launches and is used by other nations to put up both private and military satellites.

The Roscosmos space agency—a direct descendent of Moscow's once-proud Soviet programme that competed against NASA at the height of the Cold War—has been beset by a string of accidents in the past two years that prompted sackings at the top of command.

Russia's most recent setback came in November when it temporarily lost contact with all its non-military satellites as well as the space station because of a vital cable cut.

Other high-profile accidents included the loss of a highly-publicised Mars probe in the Earth's orbit and the loss of a cargo vessel taking up supplies to the ISS.

That August 2011 incident caused delays to a string of manned missions and renewed Moscow's attention on finding an eventual replacement to the workhorse Soyuz rocket.

Explore further: Computer simulation suggests early Earth bombarded by asteroids and comets

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Russia launches US telecoms satellite into orbit

Oct 06, 2011

Russian successfully launched a US Intelsat satellite into space late Wednesday, aboard a Zenit carrier rocket from the Baikonur space centre in Kazakhstan, a Russian space agency official said.

Russia delays commercial space launches after crash

Sep 13, 2011

Russia will have to delay the upcoming launch of six US satellites and two commercial European craft due to last month's Soyuz carrier rocket mishap, Russian industry sources said Tuesday.

Sea Launch vessels depart on Intelsat mission

May 21, 2012

(AP) -- Sea Launch AG says its oceangoing rocket pad and command ship have departed their Long Beach, Calif., home port for the equator to launch a communications satellite for Intelsat.

Russia sets first post-crash manned flight for November

Sep 13, 2011

Russia on Tuesday set its next manned space flight to the International Space Station for November and said it will not let the orbiter be abandoned despite a recent accident involving its workhorse Soyuz ...

Recommended for you

Exploring Mars in low Earth orbit

8 hours ago

In their quest to understand life's potential beyond Earth, astrobiologists study how organisms might survive in numerous environments, from the surface of Mars to the ice-covered oceans of Jupiter's moon, ...

Lifetime of gravity measurements heralds new beginning

10 hours ago

Although ESA's GOCE satellite is no more, all of the measurements it gathered during its life skirting the fringes our atmosphere, including the very last as it drifted slowly back to Earth, have been drawn ...

NASA's IceCube no longer on ice

14 hours ago

NASA's Science Mission Directorate (SMD) has chosen a team at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, to build its first Earth science-related CubeSat mission.

User comments : 3

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

dan42day
2.3 / 5 (3) Feb 02, 2013
At this rate the next ISS crew will consist of a half dozen Iranian monkeys.
VendicarE
1 / 5 (2) Feb 02, 2013
Why not, the ISS isn't doing anything useful.
plasticpower
1 / 5 (1) Feb 02, 2013
Technically, the rocket wasn't all Russian. It was a Zenit rocket, parts of which are built in Ukraine. The sole purpose of Zenit rockets is to provide the absolute cheapest means to deliver something to LEO. But sure, blame it on the Russians.. despite the fact that even the Atlas V uses a Russian engine for its first stage because of reliability.

http://en.wikiped...amily%29