August 19, 2011

Russia Has Lost Track Of Another Satellite

Russia said on Thursday that it has lost track of a $265-million telecommunications satellite.

The Express AM-4 satellite launched late on Wednesday aboard a Proton-M rocket from the Russia-leased launchpad in Kazakhstan.

The space agency said the first stages of the launch went smoothly, but communication with the satellite was lost after a failure of the Briz-M upper stage.

The Russian space agency said experts were working to try and re-establish contact with the satellite. Â

The Express AM-4 satellite is said to be the most powerful satellite every built in Europe and is designed to provide digital TV, Internet and telecoms services for Russia over the next 15 years.

The spacecraft was fully insured for $264.5 million with Russian Ingosstrakh insurance company.

Officials have about a 75 percent chance of linking back up to the satellite and maneuvering it, according to a report by Reuters.

Space industry expert Igor Lissov told Reuters that its loss would be a "nightmare" for Russia's industry and could delay key commercial projects by three to four years.

Russia has also had other mishaps with its space program this year.  It lost three orbiters over the Pacific Ocean earlier in 2011, costing the space agency $160 million and setting back plans for the country's own global position system.

Experts say that the Briz-KM engine burns led to the loss of a key military Earth-mapping satellite earlier this year as well.

These failures Russia has faced led to the country's space agency chief Anatoly Perminov losing his job in the spring.  He was replaced by former deputy defense minister and space forces command Vladimir Popovkin.


Image Caption: Artist illustration of the Express AM-4 satellite (Credit: Astrium)


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