MOSCOW, May 20 (RIA Novosti) – Moments before the Proton-M rocket was lost last week, a sharp pressure drop was recorded in the piping of its third stage control engine, Russia’s space chief said on Tuesday.
The head of Russia’s space agency Roscosmos, Oleg Ostapenko, said a panel of experts was yet uncertain about what caused the malfunction, saying that “everything is possible.”
“We do not rule anything out. All possible variants are being studied,” he said.
The Proton-M rocket suffered an unknown failure and was lost last week, about nine minutes after being launched from the Baikonur space center in Kazakhstan. The upper stage and its payload, the advanced Express-AM4R communications satellite, burned up in the atmosphere above China, with no debris reaching Earth.
The Express-AM4R satellite was manufactured by Astrium, an aerospace subsidiary of the European Aeronautic Defense and Space Company (EADS), and was built as part of Russia’s space program for 2006-2015.
Ostapenko said a Russian company – the Reshetnyov Information Satellite Systems (ISS) – may be charged with building a replacement for the satellite.
“We already held a tentative discussion on the issue with the ISS chief. We are drafting a certain proposal which would be considered by Roscosmos and then submitted to the government for approval. I strongly support the idea to build such satellites at Russian enterprises, not abroad. According to our information, the insurance [payment] will be enough to cover all expenses,”
The crashed rocket was insured for 7.8 billion rubles ($224 million).