MOSCOW, May 16 (RIA Novosti) – The third stage of a Russian Proton-M rocket carrying an advanced satellite burned up in the atmosphere above China on Friday, with no debris reaching Earth, the head of the Russian space agency told RIA Novosti Friday.
The Proton-M rocket suffered an unknown failure and was lost early on Friday, about nine minutes after being launched from the Baikonur space center in Kazakhstan.
“Reports have been confirmed that the carrier rocket, the booster and the satellite completely burned up in the atmosphere. This happened over Chinese territory. Taking into consideration the altitude of the orbit, we can definitely say that nothing reached Earth,” Head of Roscosmos Oleg Ostapenko said.
According to preliminary telemetry data analysis, the destruction of the rocket’s third stage occurred at an altitude of 160 kilometers (100 miles) at a flight speed of 7 kilometers (4 miles) per second.
“All the component parts and also fuel components fully burned in the atmosphere,” Roscosmos said in a statement published on the agency’s website.
The advanced Express-AM4R satellite was manufactured by Astrium, an aerospace subsidiary of the European Aeronautic Defense and Space Company (EADS), and was built under Russia’s space program for 2006-2015. It was to become the third spacecraft of the Express series to be launched this year.
Roscosmos said the malfunction occurred on the 540th second of the flight.
A commission will be set up to investigate causes of the crash, and Proton launches will be suspended pending the investigation, Russian space industry sources told RIA Novosti.
The Proton is the largest of Russia’s fleet of space launch vehicles, and has carried both government and commercial payloads.
In July, a Proton rocket crashed shortly after liftoff showering the surrounding countryside with 600 tons of flaming propellants.
Launches of the Proton were suspended for three months following the accident and the two governments quarreled over the nearly $90 million clean-up bill.