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Russia Confirms Booster to Blame for Failed Launch

RIA Novosti

14:01 16/08/2012

MOSCOW, August 16 (RIA Novosti) - The recent failure of a Russian rocket to put two satellites into their target orbit was caused by a malfunction in its Briz-M booster, Federal Space Agency Roscosmos head Vladimir Popovkin confirmed on Thursday.

The failure was caused by a fault in the booster’s fuel pipe, he said, noting it took an interagency commission 10 days to identify the problem.

A commission source earlier said pressure in the Briz-M’s upper stage had fallen sharply following the vehicle's second engine burn, causing the Proton-M rocket to spin out of control.

Russia launched a Proton-M rocket with a Briz-M booster carrying the Telkom-3 and the Express MD2 satellites last Monday from the Baikonur space center in Kazakhstan. However, the booster and the two satellites failed to reach the designated orbit.

Roscosmos has suspended the launches of Proton-M rocket carriers with Briz-M boosters following the incident.

The two satellites were to provide TV broadcast services in Indonesia.

The Telkom-3 satellite was built by Russia’s Reshetnev rocket company with communication equipment from Thales Alenia Space. The Express MD2 is a small communication satellite designed and manufactured by the Khrunichev State Research and Production Space Center for the Russian Satellite Communications Company(RSCC).

RSCC head Vladimir Nesterov resigned on Wednesday, a day after Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev reprimanded space officials over the failed satellite launch.

Speaking at a meeting with top space officials on Tuesday, Medvedev said a string of recent space failures tarnished Russia's image as a "leading space power" and instructed the government to draw up "practical proposals" on how to tighten controls on aerospace production.

The Khrunichev factory makes Proton-M rockets as well as Briz-M upper stages.

Briz-M’s history dates back to July 5, 1999 when the first launch resulted in a malfunction of the Proton's second stage, preventing the booster and its payload from reaching the orbit.

In August 2011, the malfunction of a Briz-M booster led to the loss of the Express-AM4 telecommunication satellite.

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