Russia loses contact with satellite after launch
VOSTOCHNY: Russia said it had lost contact Tuesday with a weather satellite just hours after it was launched from its Vostochny cosmodrome, in only the second rocket liftoff from the new spaceport.
The glitch is a fresh embarrassment for Russia's beleaguered space programme which has suffered a series of setbacks over recent years as Moscow seeks to ease dependence on the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.
"During the first scheduled communication session with the space vehicle, contact has not been established because it is not on its planned orbit," the Russian space agency Roscosmos said in a statement. "Information is currently being analysed."
The statement did not provide further details and its representatives declined immediate comment. Marking another milestone after the inaugural liftoff last year, the Soyuz rocket carrying the Meteor weather satellite and other equipment took off at 2:41 pm (0541 GMT) from far eastern Russia. "All the initial stages of the rocket's flight went according to plan," Roscosmos said after the liftoff.
National television broadcast live footage of the launch, showing the rocket taking off into a grey sky in the Amur region near the Chinese border.
Apart from the weather satellite, the rocket carried 18 payloads from institutions and companies in Canada, the United States, Japan, Germany, Sweden and Norway, the space agency said.
Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said Monday that such contracts would help Russia modernise its space industry.
"The launch of foreign devices with the help of Russian launch vehicles should strengthen our positions on the global market of space services and increase the volume of extra-budgetary funds and investments," Medvedev told a meeting.
The first launch from Vostochny spaceport took place in April 2016, with President Vladimir Putin overseeing the take-off.
It represented a major development for the country's space sector, with the new cosmodrome touted to mark a rebirth of an industry plagued by a string of embarrassments.
In December last year, an unmanned Progress ship carrying supplies lost contact with Earth minutes after blast-off and burnt up in the atmosphere over Siberia.