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Early Launch Seen as Likely Cause of Proton-M Failure

RIA Novosti

02:18 05/07/2013 MOSCOW, July 4 (RIA Novosti) - Early launch is seen among the most probable causes of the recent Proton-M rocket failure and the loss of three satellites, a Russian space industry source familiar with the investigation said on Thursday.

The source, who requested anonymity, said a special commission continues to investigate the failure and several versions are being considered.

“One of them [versions] is that, for yet unknown reasons, an early start took place and resulted in the failure. The control system treated it [the early start] as an emergency situation… and started to divert the rocket away from the launch pad, to a safer distance, just the way it was programmed. This version now prevails,” the source said, adding that other versions are also being carefully studied.

He said specialists are now working to decipher telemetry data, and it might take days to be completed.

The Proton-M rocket was carrying three Glonass navigation satellites when it exploded shortly after launch early on Tuesday from the Baikonur space center in Kazakhstan. The accident is the second unsuccessful launch of a Proton-M rocket carrying satellites for Russia's flagship Glonass positioning system in the last three years.

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