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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Satellite Crash Hurts Russia




Russian space officials say the loss of the Express-A1 satellite during a failed launch earlier this week has dealt a tangible blow to the country's efforts to maintain an efficient system of space-based telecommunications.


But they say they are more concerned about the future of the Proton, Russia's only rocket capable of launching such satellites to geostationary orbits.


A Proton that was supposed to carry the Express-A1 satellite into orbit was launched Wednesday at Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. But after one of the four engines on the second stage exploded, it spun out of control and came crashing back to earth.


The crash "is bad for everyone from the government agencies and space companies to the insurers, Yury Domnikov, Express satellite project manager at the state space telecommunications company Kosmicheskaya Svyaz, said Friday.


This Moscow-based company was to operate Express-A1, whose transmitter was built by the French firm Alcatel.


Domnikov said his company will probably still be able to support television broadcasts and telecommunications with its existing fleet of nine satellites.


The official said his company, national television broadcasters and insurers are much more concerned about whether they will still be able to rely on the Proton.


The Kazakhstan government introduced an indefinite ban on all launches from Baikonur on Thursday. And while other rockets may be cleared for launch in the next few weeks, if not days, the ban on Proton will remain until a thorough investigation into Wednesday's crash is completed, Domnikov said.


Russian Space Agency spokesman Konstantin Kreydenko said the probe could take more than two months to complete.


Proton's problems will not end with a lifting of the ban, warned a senior official at the Moscow-based Ingosstrakh firm, which had insured Wednesday's launch.


Andrei Borisov, head of Ingosstrakh's space risks insurance department, said his and other insurance companies may refuse to deal with Proton if its manufacturer fails to locate the glitch that has caused the crash and fix it "once and forever."