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Soyuz Rocket Fails to Deliver Foton M1 to Orbit

A Soyuz U carrying Foton M1 failed shortly after launching from Plesestsk Cosmodrome at 1820 UTC on October 15. The ESA website reports “Approximately 15 seconds after lift-off the rocket failed and fell back onto the launch pad where it exploded.” Interfax has reported the rocket began experiencing problems 20 seconds into flight and exploded 29 seconds after launch. The satellite failed to achieve orbit. No further details are available at this time. The satellite was scheduled to orbit the Earth for 15 days before returning the 610 kg (1342 lbm) reentry module to a parachute landing near the Russia-Kazakhastan border.

The 6410 kg (14,100 lbm) spacecraft was carrying 44 experiments for Rosviakosmos and the European Space Agency (ESA). ESA contributed the Fluid Physics Facility (FluidPac, with four experiments), Biopan (nine experiments), Telescience Support Unit (TeleSupport, assisting both FluidPac and the German AGAT furnace), six Autonomous Experiments (three developed by university students as part of ESA's Outreach education program), the Stone simulated meteorites experiment, and the 'Soret Coefficient in Crude Oil' (SCCO) experiment. France’s CNES contributed the IBIS biological incubator, Germany’s DLR AGAT, Russia the Polizon furnace (50% shared by ESA and DLR experiments) and four Russian experiments (Comparus, Mirage, Synus-16 and Chastat). The spacecraft experiments included principal investigators from Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, China, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Russia, Spain, Switzerland and United Kingdom. Since 1987, ESA has participated in 9 previous Foton flights.

This was the first launch of the Foton M series spacecraft, manufactured by TsSKB (Central Specialized Design Bureau), Samara. Foton M1 upgrades included increased battery capacity, boosted by lithium cells and coupled with enhanced thermal control, supplying the experiments with 0.500 kW of average power throughout the orbital flight. A new telemetry and telecommand unit increased the data flow rate. The same plant produces the many Soyuz rocket models, counting this launch attempt, 1672 to date.

In 1996, The Samara Space Center TsSKB-Progress was created by a Russian presidential decree combining the TsSKB (Central Specialized Design Bureau) and the Progress production plant. The Samara Space Center is a world leader in the design of launch vehicles, spacecraft, and space systems. The Samara Space Center traces its origin back to 1959, when a branch of the Sergei Korolev's OKB-1 design bureau (now RSC Energia) was established in the city of Kuibyshev, now known as Samara.  


Copyright 2001 - Andrews Space & Technology
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October 15, 2002

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