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Russian Space Agency Still Uncertain Over Cause of Proton Failure

RIA Novosti

17:49 16/05/2014

MOSCOW, May 16 (RIA Novosti) – Russian space agency Roscosmos investigates several possible causes of the recent Proton-M rocket failure, which resulted in the loss of an advanced telecoms satellite, Russian space chief Oleg Ostapenko said Friday.

Earlier media reports said a malfunction occurred in the rocket's third stage control engine some 545 seconds into the flight.

"It's too early to blame everything on a control engine. A detailed investigation is needed," the Roscosmos chief said.

The official said that, according to preliminary information, an emergency shutdown of third stage engines took place on the 545th second of the flight. It was preceded by a malfunction in the control engine, which caused the rocket to veer off its course.

"Naturally, when all flight parameters exceeded the norm, a [safety] program switched off all engines simultaneously," he said.

Ostapenko said the stage and its payload burned up in the atmosphere above China, with no debris reaching Earth. The Proton has been grounded pending results from an investigation into the failure. The next Proton launch was scheduled for July 15.

A special commission has been set up to investigate the causes of the failure.

The Proton is the largest of Russia's fleet of space launch vehicles, and has carried both government and commercial payloads.

Last year, a Proton rocket crashed shortly after liftoff showering the surrounding countryside with 600 tons of flaming propellants.

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