Russia rocket fails after liftoff

2014-05-16 08:01
Rocket launch. (Terry Renna, AP, file)

Rocket launch. (Terry Renna, AP, file)

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Moscow - A Russian Proton rocket carrying a European-built satellite fell back to Earth on Friday shortly after liftoff in the latest accident to hit the country's once-proud space industry.

Russian space officials said the rocket's control engine failed 545 seconds after it took off from the Baikonur space centre that Moscow leases in Kazakhstan.

State television showed the rocket and its Express-AM4P communication satellite reported to be worth $29m burning up in the upper layers of the atmosphere above the Pacific Ocean.

"We have an emergency situation," Channel One television showed a Russian flight commentator as saying.

"The flight is over," the commentator said.

Russia's Roscosmos federal space agency said it had formed a special commission "to analyse the telemetric data and discover the reasons for the emergency situation".

Channel One said the satellite - built for Russia by Airbus Group's Astrium corporation - was meant to provide Internet access to far-flung Russian territories with poor access to communication.

Russia sacked its previous Roscosmos chief Vladimir Popovkin in October 2013 after less than two years on the job because of a string of failed launches and other embarrassing incidents to the country's underfunded but fiercely proud space industry.

New Roscosmos head Oleg Ostapenko has been charged by President Vladimir Putin to overhaul the entire sector with billions of dollars in extra state funding.

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