Jul 17, 2019 | Updated: 11:17 AM EDT

Burning Up Over Siberia—Russian Rocket Disintegrates Along With Mexican Satellite

May 16, 2015 02:24 PM EDT


It seems Russia is experiencing even more trouble with their space program vehicles.  A Russian rocket carrying a Mexican satellite has malfunctioned causing it to burn up in the atmosphere over Siberia not long after launch, Russia's space agency said.

The Proton-M carrier rocket broke down just minutes after it was launched from Kazakhstan on Saturday morning, the Roscosmos agency says.  Currently, the cause of the accident is under investigation.

Russia's space program has experienced a series of embarrassing mishaps in recent months highlighted by the recent failure of resupply craft bound for the International Space Station.  This malfunction caused the Russian space agency to delay the return of three astronauts on board the ISS.

Problems with the rocket occurred about eight minutes into the flight of the Proton-M, which was being broadcast live by Russia's space agency.

"There has been a malfunction on board the booster rocket. This broadcast is now over," the presenter says.

Roscosmos said that "an emergency situation took place when the Proton-M rocket launched with a MexSat-1 satellite".  "The reasons are being identified," the agency said in a statement.

According to space industry sources, the Mexican satellite has not been found and the launches of all Proton-type rockets will be grounded until the space agency is able to determine the reason for the malfunction.

The Russian space agency said in a statement that the communications satellite, booster and third stage burned up almost entirely in the atmosphere and there was no evidence of anything falling back to Earth.

According to Roscosmos, the accident occurred at a height of 161 kilometers (100 miles), but the satellite had been insured by the customer.  President Putin was informed of the satellite failure, his spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.  Sources said that the Russian space agency lost communication with the Proton-M rocket soon before it was supposed to separate from the third-stage rocket.  Citing space industry sources, Russian news agencies reported that the engine of the third-stage rocket accidentally switched off.

Russia earns large amounts of foreign dollars with the launches of Western and Asian commercial satellites.  The Proton-M rocket has been Russia's main vehicle for commercial satellite launches, but in recent years the rockets have been repeatedly grounded due to mechanical problems. 

Russia has also enjoyed a monopoly on sending astronauts to the ISS following the mothballing of the US Space Shuttle program.  However, with this latest series of failures, the Russian space agency could be facing problems as foreign investors become hesitant to use Russia for their launches due to the recent problems.

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