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Source says Russia lost military satellite over design faults

December 09, 2015, 11:44 UTC+3 MOSCOW
According to the source, the Kanopus-ST military satellite that burnt in the atmosphere several days after its launch into orbit had no back-up system of unlocking from the Volga upper stage
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Soyuz-2 carrier rocket

Soyuz-2 carrier rocket

© Andrei Morgunov/ITAR-TASS

MOSCOW, December 9. /TASS/. The Russian military satellite Kanopus-ST that burnt in the atmosphere several days after its launch into orbit had no back-up system of unlocking from the Volga upper stage, a source in the Russian rocket and space industry told TASS on Wednesday.

"The developers of the technical documentation didn’t envisage an emergency algorithm in the event that the charge-driven piston mechanism would not unlock. Naturally, the developers should have introduced the satellite’s forced mechanical separation from the acceleration unit, despite the presence of the back-up channels of transmitting commands to pyro cartridges," the source said.

The Soyuz-2.1v carrier rocket with two military satellites was launched from the Plesetsk spaceport in northern Russia on December 5.

The Russian Defense Ministry’s press service reported that the spacecraft were successfully placed on the target orbits. However, on December 6, a number of media reports suggested that the launch failed - one of the satellites did not separate from the Volga upper stage. A source in the Russian Aerospace Force headquarters told TASS that the preliminary cause of the contingency had been established - one of the four locks holding the Kanopus ST satellite failed during the separation sequence and ground controllers were unable to contact the craft and re-issue the separation command.

The satellite burnt in the dense layers of the Earth’s atmosphere on December 8.

The launch of the Kanopus-ST satellite was the second for the Soyuz-2.1v carrier rocket whose design tests are ongoing in Plesetsk.

The Soyuz-2.1v carrier rocket was for the first time launched in December 2013.

Russia spent 15 years on developing the Kanopus-ST satellite, of which 10 years were spent on preparing the satellite’s onboard equipment.

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