Russian rocket setback for Europe

A Russian rocket carrying 3 GPS-type navigation satellites failed just moments after launch. The satellites were for the Russian Glonass global positioning scheme.

However, the failure will have an immediate knock-on effect for the many European satellite operators which were queuing up to use the Proton rocket plus its Briz-M upper stage. There will have to be a delay to determine precisely what went wrong at the Baikonur launch site in Kazakhstan.

SES-6 was successfully launched from the site just two weeks ago. But another SES craft, Astra 2E was being lined up for a July 13 launch. Three Russian-owned satellites (Express AT2, AM5 and AM6) are also due for launch by mid-August. However, Sirius-XM’s FM6 is another probable casualty and was expecting to lift off around August 13.

The Proton+Briz-M configuration is one of the most popular rocket options available today, with the Briz (sometimes written Breeze) M upper stage being use to inject satellites into a high geosynchronous orbit.

There will now have to be a formal investigation board to examine the failure, and if technical changes are needed then they’ll take time to implement.

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