Russia loses Mexican satellite after rocket failure

Russia, loses, Mexican, satellite, after, rocket, failureRussia lost a Mexican satellite on launch just hours after a glitch with a manoeuvre involving the International Space Station, the latest in a string of embarrassing failures for its troubled space programme.

Russia’s Roscosmos space agency said the Proton-M rocket carrying a Mexican MexSat-1 satellite fell back to Earth and burnt up in the atmosphere after suffering an engine problem on launch early on May 16.

Just over eight minutes after launch, an “emergency situation was recorded with the engines of the third stage of the carrier rocket”, the space agency said.

The Mexican satellite launch took place at 8:47am Moscow time from Russia’s Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. It was shown live on the website of Roscosmos.

The accident took place at an altitude of 161 kilometres, high enough for the rocket to burn up as it plunged back to Earth, it said.

“The third stage rocket, the upper stage and the satellite almost completely burnt up in the atmosphere,” it said.

“At the moment there have been no reports of falling non-combusted fragments”.

Fragments of the carrier rocket, which contained several tonnes of toxic fuel, fell back to Earth over Siberia’s Chita region, space industry sources said, while Russia’s emergencies ministry said there were no injuries or damage on the ground. The Proton-M carrier rocket has been Russia’s main workhorse used for launches of Western and Asian satellites that earn millions of dollars, but in recent years it has suffered a litany of failures and has been repeatedly grounded.

A commission involving various space industry bodies will investigate the accident and “take the corresponding decisions,” the space agency said.

The accident commission was due to meet on Sunday at 10am, a space industry source told Interfax news agency.

Russian President Vladimir Putin “naturally was informed” of the satellite failure, his spokesman Dmitry Peskov told journalists, cited by Interfax.

Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev ordered space agency chief Igor Komarov to establish who was to blame, the premier’s spokeswoman Natalya Timakova said, quoted by Interfax.