Ostapenko: Failed Bearing Doomed May 2014 Proton Launch

Ostapenko: Failed Bearing Doomed May 2014 Proton Launch

The head of Russia’s space agency, Roscosmos, says that the investigation into the failure of a Proton rocket last month concluded that it was caused by a failed bearing.  

Russia’s official Itar-Tass news agency reports that according to Roscosmos Director Oleg Ostapenko the cause of the May 16 (May 15 Eastern Daylight Time) accident was a failed bearing in the turbo pump of the steering engine.  Ostapenko reportedly said that the conclusion was in line with preliminary findings made shortly after the failure. 

The date for the next Proton launch was not announced, but Russia usually recovers from such launch accidents quite quickly.

The Ekspress AM-4R communications satellite and its Briz-M upper stage were lost because of the accident and presumably burned up in the atmosphere.  The satellite was a replacement for the Ekspress AM-4 satellite that also was lost in a Proton launch failure in 2011.  These failures are part of an increasingly longer list of Russian launch vehicle failures since December 2010 that has resulted in high level Russian political attention to the state of the Russian space industry and associated changes in the structure of that industry as well as leadership of Roscosmos and the Khrunichev State Research and Production Center, which manufactures Proton.

Russia announced last year that it would completely revamp its space industry because of the rocket failures.  It created a United Rocket and Space Corporation (ORKK) headed by Igor Komarov.   Komarov said earlier this week that ORKK does not have the authority or resources to carry out a complete audit of all of the Russian space industry, but overall the enterprises seem stable, although not all can afford to carry out modernization efforts.

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