Russian guidance goof loses Telesat satellite

Last week a Russian rocket suffered a catastrophic loss of guidance which led to it crashing back to Earth and in the process losing a major meteorological satellite and a further 18 smallish-satellites, one of which was an important broadband-by-satellite test craft for Canadian operator Telesat.

The problem, in essence, was that the Soyuz rocket was launched from a new $4 billion Russian cosmodrome, at Vostochny, in the Far East of Russia. Normally such launch launches take place at Baikonur, a Russian-leased site in Kazakhstan.

However, it now seems from a preliminary investigation that technicians at the new site had programmed the rocket’s guidance system with the ‘old’ Baikonur location and not the new site at Vostochny.

The Telesat craft (LEO-2) was due to be followed by LEO-1, and this launch will still take place as scheduled in the New Year, but on an Indian rocket.

A statement from Telesat, says: “Notwithstanding this failure, Telesat’s plans to develop a state-of-the-art, high capacity LEO constellation that will deliver transformative, low latency, fiber-like broadband to commercial and government users worldwide, remain on track.”

Telesat’s overall plan is to have a fleet of more than 100 Low Earth Orbiting satellites.

Vostochny (which means “Eastern” in Russian) is some 5500 kms East of Moscow in the Amur Oblast, and on the 51st Parallel, and close to Russia’s border with China and served by the Transiberian Railway.

Russia has built the new site in order to reduce its dependence on the existing Baikonur cosmodrome, located in Kazakhstan, for both civilian and military launches.  It is widely expected that Russia, once the new ‘Eastern’ site is fully operational, will give up the Baikonur facility despite it having a lease in place with the Kazaks which runs to 2050.

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