Putin informed of loss of contact with new satellite

MOSCOW, August 18 (Itar-Tass) —— The situation around the Express-AM4 satellite that was launched off its designed orbit on Thursday has been reported to Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, Putin’s press secretary Dmitry Peskov told Itar-Tass.

At the same time, Peskov said it was “premature to make any conclusions.”

“Experts need time to find out all the details,” he said.

According to earlier reports, the Express-AM4 communications satellite that was launched from the Baikonur cosmodrome has been taken to an off-design orbit.

Sources at the southern cosmodrome told Itar-Tass that “one of the cosmodrome’s tracking stations recorded the fifth ignition of the main engine of the Briz-M upper stage and separation of the spacecraft.” After making an analysis and calculations, specialists arrived at the conclusion that both the upper stage and satellite “have been taken to an off-design orbit.”

The satellite was planned at 10:38 a.m. Moscow time on Thursday to enter a geostationary orbit at the position 80 degrees East longitude. The question whether the ground services will be able to establish communication with the Express-AM-4 spacecraft and ensure its operation in an unplanned orbit remains open. Meanwhile, the Russian Space Agency (Roskosmos) reported that “a commission to investigate the causes of the situation” has been formed by decision of head leader Vladimir Popovkin.

Express-AM4 was insured by Ingosstrakh for a sum exceeding seven billion roubles. The customer – Federal State Unitary Enterprise Kosmicheskaya Svyaz (Russian Satellite Communications Company – RSCC) – has not yet reported the loss occurrence to Ingosstrakh.

Over the past few months Russia, in addition to Express-AM4, has lost four spacecraft due to rocket carriers’ contingencies. In December 2010, due to the failure of the DM upper stage made by the Energia Rocket-Space Corporation three satellite of the global navigation system GLONASS were lost. In February 2011, due to problems of the Briz-KM upper stage made by the Khrunichev State Space Research and Production Centre, the Geo IK-2 military satellite failed to reach the target orbit to fulfil its tasks.

Exspress-AM4 is by far the largest Express satellite ever ordered.

Russia’s Ministry of Communications and the Russian TV and Radio Broadcasting Network are concerned over the situation around the Express-AM4 satellite. In case its loss is verified, the country’s telecommunications sector will have to face serious problems. Sources in the industry said on Thursday efforts are being taken to keep within the time limits of the schedule for the transition to digital broadcasting in Russia. It is proves impossible to use the new satellite to transmit digital TV signals, the Russian TV and Radio Broadcasting Network will use land-based communication lines of the national telecom operator Rostelecom.

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