Proton failure: “Manufacturing glitch”

Within the satellite industry there are more than a few stories of manufacturing problems. One – perhaps an industry myth – talks of an empty Cola can being left inside a satellite. Another – unfortunately not a myth – tells of incorrect software being fed into a computer that caused a rocket launch to be catastrophically aborted .

The July 1st loss of an expensive Proton-M rocket looks like joining the list of stupid errors made during construction. Sources are now suggesting – unofficially – that certain key velocity sensors were inserted upside down. Perhaps worse, the post-crash inspection team is now saying that there was no foolproof method established to ensure that such sensors could only be fitted ‘right way up’.

This will not do Russia’s rocket-building reputation much good. Existing rockets will have to be re-examined, which will cause further delays, while nothing can happen until the various Enquiry Boards into the catastrophe have reported.

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