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Russia loses 19 satellites after botched rocket launch

Photo: The Rocosmos

While SpaceX ended their year with a spectacular light show, Russian space agency, The Rocosmos, can’t say the same after losing a $45 million weather satellite (among 18 others) after deployment in space a month ago due to human error.

An official from The Roscosmos gave a statement, saying that they were unable to make contact with the new Meteor-M 2-1 weather satellite. The satellite which was launched into space on board a Soyuz-2.1b rocket also carrying 18 other smaller satellites from various countries.

Even though the Soyuz rocket performed nominally, a programming error in the upper-stage Fregat orbital delivery unit resulting in the 19 satellites being placed into orbits they should not be in.

The orbital vehicle which should have been programmed with coordinates from the Vostochny cosmodrome in Russia’s far east (where the rocket was launched from), was instead programmed as if the launch took place from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

Unfortunately the space officials did not pick up on this mistake until they tried to establish first scheduled contact with the satellite earlier today.

Russia previously sent payloads into space from a leased cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, but made the switch to a new facility on their home turf to save money. This would have been the second launch from this complex.

Even though the weather satellite was placed in a sun-synchronous orbit, finding it would be like looking for a needle in a haystack at this point.

The following statement was released shortly after the discovery was made

“The first scheduled communication session has failed to establish contact with the satellite due to its absence from the designated orbit,” the corporation’s spokesman said. “Analysis of the current situation is underway.”

The 18 other lost satellites include:

  • Baumanets-2 (Russia)
  • LEO Vantage (Canada)
  • AISSat-3 (Norway)
  • IDEA (Japan)
  • SEAM (Sweden)
  • 2 Landmapper-BC (United States)
  • 10 LEMUR satellites (United States)
  • D-Star One (Germany)

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