Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Old Deficiency in Engine Design Caused Proton-M Crash, Says Russian Deputy PM

Proton-M rocket launch on May 16, 2015. Credit: Roscosmos

According to the Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin, the Proton-M rocket crash on May 16, was caused by an old deficiency in the design of the engines. "There is an old constructive deficiency and it is a matter of honor to detect this deficiency," Rogozin said Tuesday. He added that the accident is similar to the crash in 2014, when the exact cause of failure wasn’t determined.

The Deputy PM also noted that the other factor that led to last week’s crash is the low level of wages in the Russian space industry.

"People must be paid worthy salaries," he said. "Take a look at Rosatom [State Nuclear Energy Corporation], which functions normally because their young specialists are getting paid, if you excuse me, more than I am in the capacity of the deputy prime minister, and it is normal, it is the right thing."

Russia may lose its 40% share on the world space launch market unless it increases work productivity, Rogozin notified.

"If we fail urgently to remedy the situation with labor productivity in the space industry, the flights of domestic carrier rockets and spaceships will soon become more expensive for us than for our partners. Today we hold 40% of the space launch services market but we may slip far back with such indicators and finally lose the market," he warned.

The Proton-M carrier rocket with Mexico’s Mexsat-1 satellite crashed on May 16 and burnt up in the dense layers of the Earth’s atmosphere above East Siberia. An emergency situation occurred about eight-and-a-half minutes after liftoff, just before the booster was programmed to disconnect from the Briz-M upper stage.

“Preliminary flight information indicates that the anomaly occurred during the operation of the third stage, approximately 490 seconds after liftoff,” International Launch Services (ILS), a company overseeing the launch said.

The preliminary cause of the accident was in the steering engine on the Proton’s third stage.

The accident occurred one year to the day after the last Proton launch failure, which destroyed a Russian communications satellite after an anomaly in the booster’s third stage propulsion system.

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