Russia’s space program suffered another setback Tuesday when two telecommunications satellites were doomed by the improper firing of a booster rocket.
The satellites, said to be worth about $40 million, are now drifting in useless interim orbit after the booster rocket fired for 7 seconds instead of the 18 seconds required for achieving proper orbit.
Russia’s space program has endured numerous recent failures including various malfunctions, crashes and failed launchings, according to a New York Times report.
The mishap comes one day after NASA successfully landed a robotic vehicle on Mars.
Deputy Prime Minister Dmitri O. Rogozin, who heads Russia’s military, indicated in a Twitter post that the national space agency, Roscosmos, was struggling because of aging leadership.
“As long as the youngest Roscosmos director is 62, we can only dream of Mars rovers,” Mr. Rogozin said.
The satellites, built to provide telecommunications services for Indonesian and Russian consumers, were launched on a Proton rocket with a Briz-M booster from Russia’s Baikonur space center in Kazakhstan.
The failed launch is the fourth such incident since 2010, according to Bloomberg.
The Russian space agency said the booster and satellites had “not been detected on the transition orbit,” but rather in interim emergency orbit which implies a failed launch.
Roscosmos said that international space experts would track the units to be sure they do not endanger the International Space Station. “We have many years of successful experience in ensuring the safety of the station,” a spokesman said.
Aleksandr Zheleznyakov, a scientist with the Federation of Russian Cosmonautics, called the failed launch “a considerable blow to the industry’s image, particularly taking into account our many setbacks in the last couple of years.”