US space surveillance sys tracks object probably Express-AM4

MOSCOW, August 19 (Itar-Tass) —— The US space surveillance system has spotted in space an unidentified object that probably is connected with the Thursday launch of the Russian Express-AM4 communications satellite. According to the information from the web site of this system under US Strategic Command, there is an unidentified object in space, a certain A-object, which has been assigned the catalogue number 2011-045A.

There exist at least three versions as to what kind of object this can be, the sources in the Russian space-rocket industry told ITAR-TASS. At best this is the satellite Express-AM4 itself. Under this variant the upper stage must have burnt in the dense layers of the atmosphere. But it is not clear then, where the auxiliary fuel tank could be which should have stayed in space for some time after being jettisoned from the upper stage before the fourth ignition of the main engine.

The second version – the object is the orbital block comprising the upper stage and the spaceship itself. This situation is possible if the satellite has not separated from the upper stage. And again the question arises where the auxiliary fuel tank has disappeared, the source noted.

According to the third version, the most probable one, the auxiliary fuel tank has remained in space. This is possible under the condition that after the 4th ignition of the main engine the orbital block due to disorientation instead of entering the target orbit moved towards Earth as a result of the 5th ignition of the main engine, the expert think.

The new Russian communications Express AM4 satellite was designed by the Khrunichev State Research and Production Space Centre jointly with EADS Astrium company. It was launched from Baikonur cosmodrome on Thursday at 01.25 Moscow Time by means of a heavy Proton-M launch vehicle with the Briz-M (Breeze-M) booster. After the orbital block comprising the booster and the satellite was jettisoned from the carrier and the four burns of the main engine out the scheduled five were performed the telemetric communication ceased. Until the scheduled separation time (10.38 Moscow Time) the experts hoped that despite the signal loss the upper stage will ignite for the 5th time and will place the satellite into the target orbit. It is yet unknown whether this happened.



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