Russia Suffers Another Proton Failure – UPDATE

Russia Suffers Another Proton Failure – UPDATE

The launch of a Russian communications satellite, Ekspress-AM4R, on a Russian Proton-M rocket failed today (May 15, 2014 Eastern Daylight Time; May 16 local time in Russia), adding to the country’s increasing list of launch failures since 2010.  Russia’s Itar-Tass news agency reports that the problem occurred in the separation between the second and third stages.

Information is still coming in, but Itar-Tass is quoting an unnamed official at Russia’s space agency, Roscosmos, as saying the problem occurred between the separation of the second and third stages and contact with the Proton rocket “was lost in the 540th second after liftoff”  and “the nose cone did not separate from the rocket.”

Any remaining segments of the Proton-M rocket and its Briz-M upper stage and the satellite probably disintegrated in the upper layers of the atmosphere, Itar-Tass added later in the evening EDT, but small fragments could have made it back to Earth.   Officials were attempting to determine a likely impact area and initiating an investigation into the accident. 

The Ekspress-AM4R satellite was “the highest-powered and technologically” advanced communications satellite in this series.  Ironically, it was a replacement for the Ekspress-AM4 satellite that was stranded in transfer orbit in 2011 because of another launch anomaly.  Yet another in this series, Ekspress-MD2, was stranded in transfer orbit along with an Indonesian communication satellite in 2012.   Ekspress-AM4R was built by Airbus Space and Defence (formerly Astrium) and was insured for 2.5 billion rubles according to Itar-Tass.

Check back here for updates as more information becomes available.   We have a fact sheet of Russian launch failures since December 2010 posted on our website.

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