October 28, 2005

Russian Satellite Failed to Reach Orbit

MOSCOW (AP) - A Russian satellite has failed to reach its designated orbit, news reports said Friday in the latest is a series of mishaps that have dented the prestige of the country's space program.

The Mozhayets-5 satellite, intended for optical experiments, was launched Thursday by the Kosmos-3M booster rocket from the northern Plesetsk cosmodrome. Space officials have lost contact with the satellite, which failed to enter its planned orbit, the ITAR-Tass, Interfax and RIA Novosti news agencies reported.

The rocket also carried seven smaller foreign satellites that successfully entered their designated orbits.

Officials at Russia's Space Forces that oversaw the launch weren't immediately available for comment.

The problems with Mozhayets-5 follow the loss of a high-profile European space vehicle earlier this month and other recent failures that have tarnished Russia's space program.

The European Space Agency's CryoSat satellite was lost Oct. 8 due to the failure of a Russian Rokot booster, dealing a major blow to the ESA, which had hoped to conduct a three-year mapping of Earth's polar ice caps and provide more reliable data for the study of global warming.

Also this month, scientists failed to recover another experimental space vehicle and lost contact with a Russian Earth-monitoring satellite.

Russian space officials also postponed the launch of an ESA probe intended to explore Venus from last Wednesday to an unspecified date next month after pre-launch checks had revealed a problem with thermal insulation in the booster's upper stage.

The Russian Space Agency depends on revenue from commercial launches of foreign satellites to complement meager state funding.