Russia fails to put satellites into orbit | Science| In-depth reporting on science and technology | DW | 05.12.2010
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Russia fails to put satellites into orbit

Three Russian satellites crashed into the Pacific on Sunday after a failure to launch them into orbit. The satellites were supposed to complete the Russian navigation system Glonass, a rival to the American GPS.

Proton M carrier missile with DM 03 upper stage and a cluster of three Glonass M satellites

Russia's Proton-M rocket failed to make it into orbit

Russia has lost three of its satellites intended to complete a new navigation system to rival the American GPS network.

The satellites are believed to have crashed into the Pacific Ocean after the rocket carrying them failed to reach orbit.

The satellites were carried by a Proton-M rocket which took off from Russia's Baikonur space center in Kazakhstan early on Sunday.

Later, a second-stage booster rocket failed, leading to the upper-stage rocket with the satellites probably falling into the Pacific not far from the Hawaiian islands, Russian space industry official said.

The loss of the three satellites weighing around 1.4 tons is estimated to cost Russia several hundred million euros.

Glonass launch not affected

GPS navigation system in a car

Glanoss is intended to rival the US GPS navigation system

The Russian Defense Ministry played down the significance of the loss, saying the incident would not affect the rollout of the new Glonass-M positioning system.

"There are currently 26 satellites in the Glonass constellation, including two emergency satellites. This allows a complete coverage of the territory," a ministry statement said.

"The Russian space industry's capacity enables us to react rapidly to what's happened," it said. Officials insist the system would be fully operational next year.

The Glonass system dates back to Soviet times when development started in 1976. The network is intended to be an alternative to the US Global Positioning System (GPS) and was supposed to be in place by the end of January 2011 in order to lessen Moscow's dependence on GPS.

The European space agency (ESA) is developing its own Galileo system to rival both GPS and Glonass.

Author: Andreas Illmer (AFP, dpa, Reuters)
Editor: Martin Kuebler

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