Russian space agency confirms fails to locate Express-AM4 satellite

MOSCOW, Aug 18 (PRIME) — MOSCOW, Aug 18 (PRIME) — Russias Federal Space Agency has confirmed it has failed to locate communications satellite Express-AM4, which was expected to be put into orbit by launch vehicle Proton-M, RIA Novosti reported Thursday.

The launch vehicles upper stage Briz-M failed to send data on its location to ground control, a source from the space industry said earlier on Thursday.

The Federal Space Agency has located the upper stage on orbit, the agencys spokesman Alexei Kuznetsov said, adding that location of Express-AM4 is still unclear.

The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) cannot locate the satellite either, a source from the space industry said. The only object the NORAD located might be a fuel tank detached from the Briz-M upper stage, the source said.

The satellite, produced by Khrunichev State Research and Production Space Center for state-owned Russian Satellite Communications Company (RSCC), was insured for 7.5 billion rubles by insurance company Ingosstrakh, which won a tender held by RSCC. The Federal Antimonopoly Service (FAS) is, however, expected to consider on October 3 a case initiated against RSCC suspected of violating competition law when choosing the insurer for the satellite.

The possible loss of the Express-AM4 satellite may lead to delays in the development of digital TV broadcasting in 19 out of 83 Russian regions, a spokesperson for Russian Television and Radio Broadcasting Network (RTRS), which is implementing the government project for digital TV development in 20092015, told PRIME later. The majority of these 19 regions are located in the Siberian Federal District.

The Communications and Mass Media Ministrys spokeswoman Yelena Lashkina, however, said timelines for switching to digital TV from analogue TV broadcasting stipulated in the government program are not expected to be changed because of the possible loss of the satellite. Lashkina said that terrestrial main communications lines of state-controlled telecommunications company Rostelecom might be used for transmitting digital TV signal instead of satellite communications channels of Express-AM4.

The government plans to launch four more Express-AM satellites for providing digital TV services, Lashkina said, adding that two of them are currently being built and are expected to be launched in 2012 and 2013.

Separately, the Express-AM4 satellite was expected to be used by Rostelecoms subsidiary RTComm.RU in order to test satellite broadband services in remote areas, under the project supported by the government. RTComm.RU said it plans to find alternative ways to test the service if Express-AM4 is finally lost.

The Federal Space Agency said it had created a commission to investigate the reasons behind the failure in satellite launch.

The failure follows two other satellite launch failures in late 2010 and early 2011. In December 2010, three satellites of Russias Global Navigation Satellite System (GLONASS) crashed into the ocean shortly after they were launched due to a fuel miscalculation during pre-launch preparations. In early 2011, a military satellite was carried to the wrong orbit location reportedly because of a failure in the control system of the launch vehicles upper stage.

(28.7207 rubles U.S. $1)


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