Thursday, July 4, 2013

Rocket Failure Sets Back Russian Space Program

Any launch vehicle that flies as often as Russia’s Proton is bound to have its share of mishaps. The venerable heavy-lifter has flown 388 missions since its first in 1965, 45 of which have been deemed total or partial failures.

But the Proton M/Block DM-03 that veered off course and destroyed three Russian Glonass M navigation satellites in a fiery explosion near its Baikonur Cosmodrome launch pad July 2 comes at a particularly vulnerable moment for Russia’s space program, which has suffered a spate of launch vehicle failures in recent years, including five in the past 30 months.

Russia’s apparent nosedive in the quality of its space efforts has so far not affected launch vehicles serving the International Space Station (ISS). However, Proton quality control could have implications for Reston, Va.-based International Launch Services (ILS), which annually launches half of the world’s largest commercial telecommunications satellites atop Proton.

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Source: Aviation Week and Space Technology Magazine.

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