Lost Russian Ekpress-AM4R Satellite Covered by Insurance

Lost Russian Ekpress-AM4R Satellite Covered by Insurance

Russian officials are still investigating what went wrong with a Proton-M/Briz-M rocket launch yesterday (May 15, 2015 Eastern Daylight Time), but the satellite and launch were mostly covered by insurance.

Russia’s Itar-Tass news agency reported today that the 5.7 metric ton Ekspress-AM4R satellite, built by Airbus Defence and Space, cost 7.2 billion rubles ($207 million) and the launch cost 2.5 billion rubles ($71 million), a total of 9.7 billion rubles ($278 million).  The satellite was insured by Ingosstrakh for 7.8 billion rubes ($224 million).  

The satellite was to provide TV and radio broadcasting, multimedia and telephone services and was part of a transition to digital television broadcasting in Russia.  A Russian Communications Ministry official said that the satellite’s loss will postpone that transition, but will not affect current services.  Three more satellites in the series — Ekspress-AM6, AM7 and AM8 — are scheduled for launch later this year.  Although the failure investigation has only begun, Russia typically recovers quickly from such failures.

The failure involved the Proton rocket’s third stage and apparently that stage, the Briz-M upper stage and the satellite all fell to Earth together.  Russian officials say they believe most of it burned up in the atmosphere, but are determining where pieces might have landed.  Oleg Ostapenko, head of the Russian space agency, Roscosmos, told Itar-Tass that the rocket was over China at the time of the failure, 545 seconds into the flight, at an altitude of 161 kilometers. 

Anatoly Zak, editor of RussianSpaceWeb.com, writes in Popular Mechanics today that the investigation is focused on the failure of one of four small steering rockets in the third stage.  The third stage has one main engine and four steering nozzles and the failure of one of them “could lead to the loss of stability and chaotic tumbling of the booster in flight.”

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