A state of emergency imposed after a Russian space freighter fell to Earth in Siberia’s Altai Republic has been lifted in the region.
The Progress M-12M space freighter was lost after failing to separate from the Soyuz-U carrier rocket on Wednesday. A rocket engine failure is believed to have caused the accident, the first of its type in the history of Russia’s space industry.
“The state of emergency was imposed…when we were not aware exactly where the fragments had fallen,” said Sergei Volodchenko, deputy head of the Choya district.
“Now we have determined that the fragments only fell in the Choya district,” he said, adding that the district remained on high alert.
Fragments from Russian rockets launched from the Baikonur space centre in nearby Kazakhstan have been falling on the Altai Republic for decades. Experts estimate that some 2.5 tons of space waste have fallen on the republic in total.
In February 2008, shortly after the launch of a Proton-M rocket, a 3.5m-long rocket fragment landed a few meters from a hut belonging to an Altai shepherd. He subsequently appealed to the Russian authorities for compensation. His claim was dismissed, however, by Roscosmos, the Russian space agency that rents Baikonur.
Many locals have said that they have experienced health problems after rocket fragments have fallen near their homes. Shepherds have also claimed that their animals have become sick. Roscosmos has repeatedly stated that no toxic traces have been found in areas where rocket fragments have fallen.
After the retirement of the U.S. shuttle fleet earlier this summer, Russian Soyuz craft became the only way for astronauts to reach the ISS until at least the middle of the decade. NASA is paying its Russian counterpart Roscosmos more than $1 billion for crew transport services over the next four years.
The Soyuz-U carrier rocket blasted off from the Baikonur Space Center in Kazakhstan and was scheduled to separate at 5:09 p.m. Moscow time [13:09 GMT]. The source said the engine failure made it impossible for the spacecraft to achieve the required orbital velocity.