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Soyuz Rocket Crashes With Satellite on Board

A Soyuz 2-1b rocket that launched successfully on November 27, 2011; a similar rocket failed on Dec. 23, 2011. Credit: Space Launch Report

A day of highs and lows for the Russian space program: while the Soyuz TMA-03M capsule docked safely at the International Space Station, a Soyuz-2 rocket carrying a communications satellite failed shortly after launch from the Plesetsk spaceport. Reports say the Meridian satellite, which can be used by the military or for civilian purposes, did not reach orbit and crashed near the city of Tobolsk in Siberia, about 2,300 km from Moscow. A combustion chamber burn-through is suspected in today’s launch, another failure in what is becoming an alarmingly long list of problems for the Russian space program.

Roscosmos director Vladimir Popovkin admitted that Russian spaceflight is “in crisis” after today’s launch failure.

An update from RussianSpaceweb.com says an analysis of available telemetry on the fuel line pressure before the entrance to the engine’s injection system indicated a possible wall bulging of the combustion chamber No. 1, leading to its burn through and a catastrophic fuel leak. (RD-0124 engine has four combustion chambers).

The Interfax news agency reported the Meridian failure could delay the launch of Progress cargo craft to the ISS, scheduled for January.

Today’s rocket failure was a Soyuz-2.1b, the latest version of the rocket that has been in service in various forms since the 1960s.

In August, a Soyuz-U rocket failed carrying a Progress resupply ship; three Glonass navigation system satellites launched in December 2010 veered off course and crashed into the Pacific Ocean; and the Phobos-Grunt probe, which launched in November is currently stuck in Earth orbit and will likely re-enter and crash after its booster failed, and communications with the spacecraft haven’t been permanently established.

The next Soyuz launch, scheduled for December 26 from the Baikonur Cosmodrome may also be delayed. This flight is intended to put six communications satellites in orbit.

About 

Nancy Atkinson is Universe Today's Senior Editor. She also works with Astronomy Cast, and is a NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Torbjörn Larsson December 23, 2011, 9:30 PM

    to put six communications in orbit.

    Yo IVAN3MAN, there is something for you to check out here.

    • IVAN3MAN_AT_LARGE December 23, 2011, 11:35 PM

      I HAZ ALREDDY SEND NOTE 2 NANCY ABOOT DAT AND ALZO TEH DOOBLE “WHICH” IN TEH SECON LAST PARAGRAF. ;-)

    • Aerandir90 December 24, 2011, 3:32 AM

      Best post ever. :D

      • Torbjörn Larsson December 24, 2011, 6:46 AM

        Thanks! My twisted sense of humor won over my decency.

  • Anonymous December 24, 2011, 3:05 AM

    Again? how can launch vehicle with perfect record for decade suddenly misbehave? this must be deliberate sabotage.

    • Torbjörn Larsson December 24, 2011, 6:45 AM

      Conspiracy theories on a science blog? Those are always the least likely explanation for an event, often by construction since their creators tries to make them as little testable as possible.

      Conspiracies do exist, but the many more likely culprit here is the social upheaval that Russia is undergoing. To be an engineer is no longer a privileged or even well paid job, I am told.

      • Anonymous December 24, 2011, 8:54 AM

        Oh sorry I intended it to be a sarcasm, but that didn’t get through so please don’t take it seriously.

        • Torbjörn Larsson December 26, 2011, 1:14 PM

          Oops, sorry! Satire is hard work (but don’t tell that to Colbert). I guess my twisted sense of humor still has some twists to learn.

    • Prof. Michael O. Zimmermann Ph December 24, 2011, 1:00 PM

      it’s the opposition in Russia, which does not want Putin to be the rotating President/Prime-Minister, to succeed…

  • Aerandir90 December 24, 2011, 4:46 AM

    I just noticed that in this streak of failures, it’s always the upper stage that malfunctions even though they are different launch vehicles. Uncanny..

    This sure is a crisis for Roscosmos.

  • Prof. Michael O. Zimmermann Ph December 24, 2011, 12:57 PM

    Well, looks like it is time for more quality control… 3 failures over such a short time span suggest 2 things. Time’s up for old expensive technology and it’s time to use SpaceX (they use their own tech, unlike ULA (Russian rocket motors) and whoever can swing it in the private industry. It is time for ROSCOSMOS to show some innovation. The old gas guzzlers were good for a while, but now is 2012, not the 60s anymore… Suck it up guys ;-)
    NASA, anybody listening?

    My bet is on SpaceX as the frontrunner.
    Merry Christmas and a Happy and Successful 2012 everyone here on UniverseToday!

  • kkt December 24, 2011, 5:59 PM

    And these are the folks our astronauts are hitching a ride with because the Shuttle is too dangerous to use anymore?

    • Tony Power December 25, 2011, 10:01 PM

      These are the guys Obama has peged his hopes of USA maintaining a presence in space on. Its what happens when a governemtn put the $ ahead of human lives. USA may as well admit defeat and wrap up NASA all together.

      • Torbjörn Larsson December 26, 2011, 1:09 PM

        Oy vey, everything is backwards here. Not surprising, it seems this commenters only business is trolling for Obama.

        The Soyuz policy was, famously, not decided and put in place by the current administration. This was Bush’s idea, based on that the Shuttle was _too risky_. Soyuz is the current record holder based on security (and cost).

        Nor is the policy putting all its hope, or even using as its main “peg”, Soyuz but commercial alternatives.

  • Anonymous December 26, 2011, 4:59 PM

    Two words… Quality Control oTay… three words – include: ACK!

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