Russia works to fix satellite's off-target orbit (Update)

December 9, 2012 by Anna Smolchenko
A Proton-M rocket carrying the Yamal-402 communications satellite, blasts off from a launch pad at the Russian leased Kazakhstan's Baikonur cosmodrome. Russia failed to put a communications satellite into designated orbit, in the latest setback for the once-pioneering space industry.

Russian scientists were working to correct the orbit of a communications satellite Sunday after it failed to reach its designated location in space—the latest setback for the country's once-pioneering space industry.

The mishap was believed to be linked to a malfunction in the Proton-M rocket's Briz-M booster stage, and occurred hours after the rocket blasted off from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 1313 GMT Saturday.

Previous problems with the booster type apparently led President Vladimir Putin to fire the chief of a key aerospace bureau earlier this year.

"On December 9, during the placing of Yamal-402 satellite vehicle into designated orbit, the separation of the satellite vehicle occurred four minutes ahead of schedule," Russia's Roskosmos state space agency said in a statement.

The agency said it had taken control of the satellite and was looking to fix the problem after finding all its systems were "functioning in a regular mode".

Scientists were to attempt later Sunday to fix the satellite's orbit by firing up the device's own engines, though such a move would shorten its lifespan, a source in the space industry told the Interfax news agency.

"The situation is unpleasant but not catastrophic," the source was quoted as saying.

Interfax added the satellite could need three days to correct its orbit.

The Yamal-402 satellite was made for Gazprom Space Systems, a space and telecommunications arm of natural gas giant Gazpom, to provide communications for Russia, Western and Central Europe, the Middle East and North Africa.

Problems with the rocket's Briz-M booster stage have bedevilled Russia's space programme this year, which has been beset by a litany of technical problems that saw the loss of a half-dozen satellites and vehicles, including a Russian cargo vessel bound for the International Space Station in July.

Space experts linked the past failures to persisting problems with the Proton-M rocket's Briz-M booster stage.

"The interconnection has been recognised even by Roskosmos management because the general director of this organisation, Vladimir Popovkin, ordered to conduct additional checks into and even temporarily suspend the work of these booster stages," space analyst Yury Karash said on Ekho of Moscow radio.

This weekend's space mishap comes after two satellites were lost after problems following the launch of a Proton-M rocket on August 6, which missed its correct orbit.

Contact was never made with the two telecommunications satellites—the Russian Express-MD2 and the Indonesian Telkom-3.

A commission later found a problem with Briz-M, the upper-stage used with the Proton-M rocket, and ordered inspections on the entire Briz-M production line, putting future launches on hold.

In September, President Putin fired Vladimir Nesterov, the chief of a key state-run aerospace bureau, the Khrunichev space centre, which produces and launches the Proton rocket.

A source at the Baikonur cosmodrome told Interfax that the rocket's failure to put the satellite into space could delay the launch of another satellite, Satmex 8, set for December 27, until next year.

US space authorities on Sunday published the orbital measurements of the communications satellite and said it had not reached its proper trajectory around the Earth because of a problem with the Briz-M, Interfax said.

Explore further: Russia fires top space official over launch failures

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1 / 5 (2) Dec 09, 2012
What the hell is the deal with the Russian space program?

They are worse off now than they were 40 years ago.

Isn't it more likely that all these "failures" are actually cover-ups and the Russians are stowing secret weapons or spy satellites in space?

What if they are secretly putting lasers or nuclear bombs in space under the guise of "communication satellites," and failed martian planetary probes? Seems easy enough. Launch the super-weapon and convince everyone that it failed, and then they forget about it.

I know the U.S. military tracks all this stuff anyway, but these number of "failures" they have seems disproportional, as through planned as a disguise for something sinister.

They can't be that incompetent that these are all "actual" failures.
Lex Talonis
2.3 / 5 (6) Dec 10, 2012
Yeah one more fuckwit Meriken... with one more commie conspiracy theory.

From the worlds most prescription drug addicted nation with the most nukes....

2.3 / 5 (3) Dec 10, 2012
What the hell is the deal with the Russian space program?

They are worse off now than they were 40 years ago

I wouldn't be so quick to judge that. We know for certain that the former USSR had a LOT of accidents in their early space program. They still have not released the numbers though, so nobody knows exactly what their success rate was. They did a LOT more launches, way faster than the US did, but that was at the expense of way more risks. I don't think you can point to any time span when the USSR, or now Russia, has had as low a failure rate as either ESA or NASA. They have a history of sending up way more stuff, but they are not as risk-averse as we are; they just keep trying.

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