High Tech Telecom Satellite Destroyed After Russian Rocket Launch Fails
Brett Smith for redOrbit.com – Your Universe Online
A Russian telecommunications satellite crashed to the ground on Friday as a result of a launch failure by the country’s Proton-M rocket.
Launched in the early morning hours from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, the rocket experienced an “emergency situation” that kept it from going into orbit, Russian space agency Roscosmos said.
Russian media reported that an issue with the rocket occurred about 94 miles above the Earth and ultimately the rocket and its cargo crashed across parts of Siberia and the Pacific Ocean. They were no casualties or significant damage reported. Russian media did report that the Express-AM4R satellite was made using cutting-edge technology and was supposed to provide cheap internet access to Russians in remote parts of the country.
The incident is the first involving a Proton-M rocket since July 2013, when three other satellites were lost due to engine failure. The rocket was carrying over 600 tons of fuel and the Kazakh government calculated the environmental damage from the crash at about $70 million.
The incident damaged relations between Russia and Kazakhstan; a close political and economic ally. Kazakhstan had enacted a short-term moratorium on all Proton launches from its territory following last year’s incident.
The situation comes after Russian and US officials publicly clashed over the future of the International Space Station, a symbol of post-Cold War collaboration, and rocket engines that Russia supplies to NASA. The clash is fueled by the on-going upheaval in Ukraine.
On Tuesday, Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said Russia would not agree to continue operating the International Space Station (ISS) beyond 2020. The Russian announcement, which came from a politician not a space agency official, came one day after NASA announced it would stop all space-related, non-ISS efforts with Russia due to the current political dispute.
“We are very concerned about continuing to develop high-tech projects with such an unreliable partner as the United States, which politicizes everything,” Rogozin said during a press conference.
Russia said it will be preventing the US from access to Russian-made rocket engines for launching military satellites, as well as suspend operations of GPS satellite navigation system sites on its territory starting in June.
In addition to suspending all non-ISS collaboration with Russia, the US has said it intends to refuse export licenses for high-technology items typically used by the Russian military.
“These sanctions are out of place and inappropriate,” Rogozin said. “We have enough of our own problems.”
The Russian official added that the NK-33 and RD-180 engines, which Russia supplies to the United States, are ready for delivery – but said they would not be released, keeping the US from potentially launching military satellites. The RD-180 engines are used in the satellite-launching Atlas 5 rockets – manufactured by the United Launch Alliance, a Lockheed Martin-Boeing collaboration.
The ULA said it hopes any dispute between the two nations can be resolved quickly, but said it has a two-year supply of engines that can be used until the conflict is resolved or an alternative is found.
“ULA and our Department of Defense customers have always prepared contingency plans in the event of a supply disruption,” ULA spokeswoman Jessica Rye said in a statement, according to Reuters.