A giant Russian Antonov aircraft was forced to make an emergency landing around 3am (GMT) October 28th at a remote airfield with a failed engine. The aircraft was carrying Astra 2G, a satellite due for launch next month from the Baikonur launch site in Kazakhstan.
Initial Russian reports say that the landing was “smooth” and that there were no injuries amongst the 20 crew and passengers. The aircraft was on a routine flight from Toulouse in France to Baikonur, via Moscow, where it refuelled. Later during October 28, aircraft engineers said the aircraft’s engine would be repaired and the flight resumed within a matter of hours.
The satellite, built by Airbus of France, is in a sealed, climate controlled, transportation container. Two Airbus staffers were on the flight.
The owners of the aircraft, the Volga-Dnepr Group, say the valuable cargo was not damaged during the landing. However, sources at satellite owner SES suggest that the satellite has yet to be examined and expressed concern as to whether the inspection could take place at Baikonur, or whether the craft would have to be returned to Airbus for a full – and time-consuming – examination.
The satellite had been expected to launch on November 27th. That schedule is now in doubt.