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Saturday, May 16, 2015

Russian Rocket Carrying Mexican Satellite Is Said to Crash in Siberia

As reported by the NY Times:  A Russian-made rocket ferrying a Mexican telecommunications satellite crashed in eastern Siberia minutes after its launching on Saturday, Russian news agencies reported, citing officials at the country’s space agency.

The Proton-M rocket was launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 11:47 a.m. and crashed in the Chita region of Siberia about eight minutes later, the reports said.

The failure appeared to have occurred with the rocket’s third stage, which was intended to bring the satellite to an altitude of about 110 miles. At that point, it was supposed to be propelled by engines into geostationary orbit.

Instead, there was a catastrophic failure. The stream of telemetry data sent back by the rocket failed about a minute before the satellite was to enter orbit, the news agencies reported.

The Interfax agency quoted an unidentified official at Roscosmos, the Russian space agency, as saying there had been an “emergency engine shutdown of the third stage.”

The Proton rocket is the mainstay transporter for International Launch Services, a joint Russian-American satellite carrier business. The satellite, called Centenario, was being sent into orbit on behalf of Mexico’s Ministry of Communications and Transportation and had been manufactured by Boeing Satellite Systems.

According to a statement issued by International Launch Services before the launching, it was intended to provide “mobile satellite services to support national security, civil and humanitarian efforts and will provide disaster relief, emergency services, telemedicine, rural education and government agency operations.”

The Proton-M is regarded as a workhorse but has encountered numerous problems in its decades of service. In 2013, a leadership shake-up at Roscosmos was prompted in part by the fourth failed launch of a Proton-M rocket within three years.

Officials said further launchings would be suspended until the cause of Saturday’s crash was determined.

The Mexican ministry said International Launch Services would create a commission to investigate the accident.

It said the satellite loss was “100 percent” covered by insurance, a point that seemed aimed at a domestic population often skeptical of the government’s spending on big projects.

The ministry said it still planned to launch another communications satellite from Cape Canaveral, Fla., aboard a Lockheed Martin rocket in October.

Gerardo Ruiz Esparza, the transportation and communications secretary, said that the lost satellite and its launching were valued at $390 million.

“I regret the mission was not a success,” Mr. Esparza said. “If Mexico is joining in these high technologies, we are going to have to learn to live with the risks that are not uncommon in this industry. The benefit is not so much being in the space era so much as the service it could provide to Mexicans.”
The Mexsat 1 is enclosed inside the Proton rocket's payload fairing before Saturday's launch.