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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

No Ticket, No Ride for U.S. Satellite

Thursday's launch of a Kosmos-3M rocket from the Plesetsk cosmodrome in northern Russia would have been an unqualified success, except that half of its cargo -- a U.S.-Russian commercial satellite -- was left behind on Earth, enmeshed in red tape.


Officials of the U.S. aerospace company Final Analysis Inc. hope a meeting with Russian Space Agency representatives Friday will shed light on why the FAISat-2V telecommunications satellite, produced by Final Analysis and the Polyot Design Bureau in Omsk, Siberia, was not authorized to ride aboard the rocket, despite months of preparation.


"It was very disappointing for us that we were here for the launch date and they went ahead and launched without us," Dr. Nader Modanlo, president of Final Analysis, said in Moscow on Thursday.


"There were no technical problems," he said. "It's the first time I've heard of launch permission not being given because of of 26 low-orbit telecommunications satellites, made by Final Analysis and Polyot and launched up to eight at a time.


Russia's Military Space Forces, which carried out the launch, blamed the delay on Polyot being slow in filling out documentation.


"If Polyot had observed all the formalities the satellite would have flown," said military spokesman Ivan Safronov, without giving specifics. "But since this was not the case, it remained in Omsk," he said, adding that Final Analysis would now have to wait for the next scheduled Kosmos-3M launch "sometime in the third quarter of the year" if they wanted to use the Russian military's facilities again.


As journalists due to attend the launch learned of the postponement earlier this week, representatives of Final Analysis expressed hopes the Russian military would delay the launch until April 24, allowing time to complete paperwork. But it wasn't to be.


"We have our own rules," said Vyacheslav Mikhailechenko, also from the Military Space Forces press department. Mikhailechenko also said that in addition to paperwork for the satellite itself, journalists invited to the launch had not been properly accredited by Polyot. "They invite people into someone else's home, but don't tell the host about it."


Final Analysis officials were mystified by these claims Friday, having entrusted all administrative matters connected with the launch to Polyot. Nevertheless, Modanlo described Polyot as a "fantastic partner," and stressed the value of the two companies' joint construction of FAISat-2V as an example of cooperation between U.S. and Russian aerospace enterprises.


"We are hopeful the Russian government and space agency will recognize the importance of such projects," he said. "As President Yeltsin says, if you buy Russian you will not regret it. I just hope we will have a quick launch soon and won't regret it."


While Russia's space program faces an uncertain future due to chronic underfunding, many experts think the launch of commercial satellites could be a lifesaving resource, particularly since problems aboard the 11-year-old Mir space station lend increasing weight to calls for the station to be decommissioned. Last year the Mir earned Russia $471 million from governments and companies for using the station, about half of the Russian Space Agency's budget for 1996, agency head Yury Koptev told reporters in February.