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Russian rocket burns up in atmosphere, loses $275 million telecommunications satellite

By Daniel S Levine,

A Russian rocket failed Friday morning, carrying a $275 million hi-tech telecommunications satellite, an official from Russia's Federal Space Agency confirmed.

News agency Itar-Tass reports that the Proton-M rocket launched from Baikonur, carrying the Express-AM4R satellite. It failed, burning up in the atmosphere. The official stated that the rocket failed when it went off course, 161 km (100 miles) in the air, during the third stage.

“Some small fragments of the rocket could fall onto Earth. An impact area is being ascertained,” the official told Itar-Tass. “There was an angle-and-bank error.” Communication was lost at the 540th second after liftoff.

According to Reuters, this is the latest setback for the Russian space agency. It is the second time in less than a year that a Proton-M rocket has failed. This is also the second time that a key European communications satellite has failed to reach space. This could delay commercial projects by as much as three years and will delay Internet access in remote parts of Russia.

A crash in July 2013 resulted in the loss of three navigation satellites worth $200 million.

“It's a heavy blow, of course. And the thing is that our workhorse rocket - our most powerful and the most-used rocket - has such a bad record,” Ivan Moiseyev of the Institute of Space Policy think tank, told Kommersant-FM, notes Reuters.

The Proton-M rockets have a 7 percent failure rate, Moiseyev explained. The Proton family was once reliable and has been in use since the 1960s, but accidents like these may make companies think twice about using Russian rockets to launch satellites.

 
 

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