A botched Russian launch junked two multi-million dollar satellites on Tuesday that were to provide Indonesia and Russia with telecom services, adding to a series of failures that have dogged the once-pioneering space industry.
Russia's space agency said the failure of the upper stage of the launch atop its workhorse Proton rocket led to the loss of Indonesia's Telekom-3 and Russia's Express MD2 satellites.
The error after takeoff from the Russian-leased Baikonur launch pad in Kazakhstan late on Monday replicates a mishap that scrapped the $265 million Express AM-4 satellite last summer, casting doubt on the reliability of the Russian rocket.
The space agency, Roskosmos, said in a statement that the Briz-M booster had fired its engines on schedule, but they had burned for only seven of the programmed 18 minutes and 5 seconds needed to push the satellites into their planned orbit.
"The chances that the satellites will separate from the booster and reach the designated orbit are practically non-existent," a space industry source told the state news agency RIA.
Launches of such Proton rockets likely will be suspended pending expert analysis of the failure, the Russian industry source said.
Moscow, which carries out some 40 percent of global space launches, is struggling to restore confidence in its industry after a string of mishaps last year, including the failure of a mission to return samples from the Martian moon Phobos.
Telkom-3, the first satellite Jakarta has purchased from Moscow, was built by Russia's ISS-Reshetnev with communication equipment made by French-led satellite maker Thales Alenia Space. It had a capacity of 42 active transponders to cater to the growing demand of Indonesia's satellite business service.
Express MD2 was a small communication satellite, made by the Khrunichev State Research and Production Space Centre, for the Russian Satellite Communications Company.
© 2014 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.