August 18, 2012 (TSR) – Good news. The contact has been made with an Indonesian telecommunications satellite that went missing following a failed launch last week, a Russian rocket firm said on Monday. The two lost Russian satellites have not collided with anything so far like the 2009 incident with American Iridium mobile phone spacecraft.
“Contact with the satellite has been established and is being sustained,” the Reshetnev rocket company, which built the craft, said in a press release. “The satellite is oriented toward the sun. A positive energy balance is being maintained onboard. The craft’s solar panels have been opened.”
The satellite could be used for “additional tests” of the firm’s “new space platform,” Reshetnev director Nikolai Testoyedov told RIA Novosti. The firm “will take care of the controlled maneuvering of the satellite off orbit” if Indonesia’s PT Telkom, which owes the craft, gives permission for the tests.
The platform, Express-1000H, is being used for the development of the Amos-5 satellite, Testoyedov said.
PT Telkom spent some $200 million to purchase and launch the Telkom-3, the Jakarta Post newspaper reported.
Russia’s Briz-M booster, which failed to put two satellites into their target orbit, is likely to keep flying in space for up to five months before sinking into the thicker layers of the atmosphere, a rocket industry source told RIA Novosti on Wednesday, Aug 8
According to U.S. Strategic Command, there are currently four objects with virtually identical orbits following the Proton-M launch.
RIA Novosti’s source suggested that these four objects are the booster, an additional fuel tank, and the two satellites.
“They have separated, so there was some control impact and the command and control system was functional,” the source said, adding that satellite control systems should also have been activated.
“They should respond to commands.”
Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev has ordered…
…the Federal Space Agency Roscosmos to sort out its problems. “You will from now on report on the current situation, including the practical measures being taken to improve the quality of work in the industry, including essential issues and organizational form of the Roscosmos work,” Medvedev told the agency’s head, Vladimir Popovkin, during a government meeting.
Medvedev claimed production quality was the industry’s most acute problem. “These topics must be worked out on the government level within a month. After that, I’ll hold a meeting with all key enterprises of the (space) industry,” he said, adding “other decisions” would also be made. Medvedev said hardships the industry had been experiencing, such as an aging production base, low-quality electronics and shortage of skilled human resources, could not justify the string of failures in recent years. “In the past one and a half year, there were seven failed launches, 10 satellites lost, billions of rubles cast to the wind,” he reminded.
“If you compare this to the results of other leading space powers, you will see a colossal difference, unfortunately,” Medvedev said, adding that “nothing similar to this has ever happened” in any other country with a well-developed space industry.
The most recent failure came on August 7, when Russia’s Proton carrier rocket launched from the Baikonur space center in Kazakhstan failed to deliver two satellites onto their designated orbit because of a suspected mishap in the engines of its Briz-M booster.
The satellites – Russia’s Express MD2 and Indonesia’s Telkom-3 – have been lost in space as a result.
Last August, a similar problem caused the loss of a $265 million communications satellite, Express-AM4.
Such incidents, Medvedev said, weaken Russia’s image as a leading space power.
He pointed to existing problems in the space industry, such as worn-out production equipment, 90 percent of which has been in service for more than two decades, as well as a lack of production materials and young specialists in the space industry.
“I don’t know what the cause of the failures is – be it a [faulty] upper stage, mechanical damage, elementary slackness… but this could not be tolerated anymore,” a visibly angered Medvedev said
“We are losing authority and billions of rubles,” he added.
Russia has suffered a string of space failures in recent years, including the failed Mars probe Phobos-Grunt in January.
Both satellites were insured by Russian Ingosstrakh and Alfa Strakhovanie. Coverage totaled 1.17 billion rubles ($39 million) for the Express MD2 and 225 million rubles for the Telkom-3.
The premier also noted that the Russian government was planning to invest some 650 billion rubles ($20.44 billion) in the country’s space industry by 2015.
Medvedev warned he was going to make some decisions on those responsible for the failure this Tuesday. The Russian government plans to invest 650 billion rubles (some 20 billion U.S. dollars) in the industry between now and 2015. Since December 2010, Russia has suffered seven failed space launches, the most recent on August 7th when a Proton-M carrier rocket failed to put two telecommunications satellites into the correct orbit.
Now it appears as though Medvedev’s words have struck home… Vladimir Nesterov, head of the Khrunichev State Research and Production Space Center in Moscow, has handed in his resignation, which is being processed, the source said. Speaking at a meeting with top space officials on Tuesday, Medvedev said a string of recent space failures tarnished Russia’s image as a “leading space power” and instructed the government to draw up “practical proposals” on how to tighten controls on aerospace production. The Khrunichev factory makes Proton-M rockets as well as Briz-M upper stages. The company declined to comment when contacted by RIA Novosti.