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Russian satellite that burned in atmosphere was key one in digital TV system

May 16, 2014, 18:40 UTC+3 MOSCOW
The head of the Russian Television and Radio Broadcasting Network, which is responsible for infrastructure of digital TV, said the failure will not affect program of a switchover to digital television
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© ITAR-TASS/Marina Lystseva

MOSCOW, May 16. /ITAR-TASS/. Russia’s Express-AM4R satellite that burned in atmosphere early on Friday after the launch of a Proton-M carrier rocket from the Baikonur space center in Kazakhstan went wrong was the key one in the country’s plans to switch over to digital television, but the plans are unlikely to be affected.

Viktor Pinchuk, a deputy director-general of the Russian Television and Radio Broadcasting Network (RTRS), which is responsible for infrastructure of digital TV, said the failure will not affect the program of a full switchover to digital television: the RTRS has its leased capacities on some other satellites: Yamal 402, Express AM2, Express AM4, and Express AM5.

The direct financial losses from the failed launch of the Proton-M carrying Express-AM4R totals some 9.7 billion rubles ($278 million): the satellite cost some 7.2 billion rubles ($207 million), and the rocket launch cost some 2.5 billion ($71 million).

The 5.7-metric-ton satellite was insured in the Ingosstrakh company for 7.8 billion rubles ($224 million) with account for the loan burden, Russian Satellite Communications Company (RSCC), the key state operator of communications satellites, told ITAR-TASS.

The RSCC said another three Express series satellites - AM6, AM7 and AM8 - are due to be launched this year. As regards a replacement for the burned-out AM4R, a duplicate will take about three years to manufacture, the Communications Ministry said.

The lost apparatus was designed to provide TV and radio broadcasting, multimedia and telephony services as well as to solve tasks of presidential and government communications nearly on all Russian territory, in the Commonwealth of Independent States (an association of former Soviet republics) and in Central Europe.

“The loss of the satellite postpones promising plans to upgrade and develop the civil group of communications and broadcasting satellites, but does not affect provision of services today,” the Communications Ministry said in a statement.

In order to ensure television and radio broadcasting on Russian territory, the communications resource of satellites will be redistributed and the planned position for a new satellite, Express-AM6, that was due to be launched by mid-July 2014, will change.

In the past five years, there have been eight cases when Russian carrier rockets’ launches failed. Upper stage malfunctions were named as reasons for the failures.

The previous failure of a Proton-M rocket occurred in July 2013. It resulted in the loss of three Glonass navigation satellites. Before that, similar accidents happened in December 2010, in August 2011, and in August 2012.

Failures also haunted the launches of other Russian carrier rockets: Rokot with a geodesy satellite in February 2011 and Soyuz-U, which failed to orbit a Progress spacecraft carrying a cargo for the International Space Station in August 2011.

In November 2011, the Russian-Ukrainian Zenit-2SB rocket carrying the Fobos-Grunt space probe failed to reach the trajectory for flight to Mars. The launch of a similar rocket carrying US telecommunications satellite Intelsat failed in February 2013.

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