A Russian communications satellite launched on Friday crashed into Siberia minutes after launch. The Russian defense ministry said the crash was due to rocket failure. The satellite was launched on a Soyuz-2 from Plesetsk Cosmodrone in northern Russia.
Defense sources say the satellite crashed into the central Siberian region of Novosibirsk and the remains have already been located.
RIA Novosti reports that the Soyuz rocket was carrying a Meridian-5 satellite, to provide communication between ships, planes and coastal stations on the ground.
VOA reports that the latest failure comes after a supply ship carried by a Soyuz, bound for the International Space Station (ISS), crashed in August into Siberia
According to a spokesman of Russia's space forces Alexei Zolotukhhin: "The satellite failed to go into its orbit. A state commission will investigate the causes of the accident." He said further: "An accident occurred at the 421st second of the Meridian satellite launch from the Plesetsk space center in the off-normal work of the propulsion unit of the third stage of the launch vehicle."
According to AFP, the Soyuz-2.1B rocket is part of a family of Soyuz rockets that have been the mainstay of Moscow's space programme for decades. The Soyuz rockets are also used to launch humans for the International Space Station (ISS). After withdrawal of the U.S. space shuttle in July, Russia is the only country capable of launching astronauts into space. On Friday, a Russian Soyuz space capsule launched from Kazakh carried a multinational crew of three astronauts into space and docked successfully with the ISS. The astronauts were Russia's Oleg Kononenko, NASA's Don Petit and Dutch astronaut Andre Kuipers.
AFP reports that the latest crash happened after the satellite that was supposed to separate from the rocket about nine minutes after its launch failed to do so. The loss is painful for the Russians because it comes at a time they are marking half a century since Yuri Gagarin made man's first voyage into space.
Vladimir Popofkin, head of the Russian space agency Roskosmos, told reporters that, "What happened today confirms that the (space) sector is in crisis."
The crash of the Soyuz-2 is the latest in a series of embarrassing failures of space launch attempts by the Russians. In a period of just 12 months, the Russians have lost three navigation satellites, a military satellite, a telecommunications satellite and a Mars Probe. Space.com reports that one of the military satellites lost in recent times was the Geo-IK2 which failed to launch into proper orbit in August.
Popofkin was appointed head of Roskosmos after Anatoly Perminov was sacked in April following a series of failures including the December 2010 crash of three navigation satellites. The satellites did not reach orbit but crashed into the ocean off the island of Hawaii. After the appointment of Popofkin, Russia's space agency suffered a number of serious setbacks one of which was the failure of its Phobos-Grunt probe aimed at Mar's largest moon. The probe was launched in November 9 but failed to leave the Earth's orbit.
Earlier this month Russian president Dmitry Medvedev threatened disciplinary action, including fines and criminal penalties on officials. Anatoly Perminov was reprimanded in December 2010.
Space.com reports that another launch of a Russian-built rocket is slated for December 26. A Proton rocket is scheduled to launch a communications satellite from Baikonur Cosmodrome. The mission is overseen by the U.S. based firm International Launch Services. Proton rockets are of a different design than Soyuz-2 booster.
According to AFP, financial loss from the crash of the Meridian satellite could be as much as $65 million and it is possible that the satellite was not insured.