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AKIPRESS.COM - Human error likely led to the recent failure of a Proton-M rocket carrying Russia’s most powerful telecommunications satellite, a source in the space industry close to the commission investigating the incident told RIA Novosti Monday.
“The human factor during the carrier assembly is the main reason of the ascent abort. The commission is drawing up several versions of the events, including the problem with the control engine, which could have led to the malfunction of the third stage of the Proton-M and the lift-off abort of the launcher,” the source said.
Roscosmos Head Oleg Ostapenko told RIA Novosti that it was unclear whether the failure of the control engine led to the incident. Moscow-based Khrunichev, the prime contractor of Proton, said last week a malfunction in the third stage occurred during the 540th second of the flight.
Nina Smirnova, a representative of the Voronezh-based plant that produced the third stage of the rocket, told RIA Novosti that an investigation is under way.
Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin earlier said that Proton launches are suspended until the investigation commission completes its work.
The Proton-M rocket suffered an unknown failure and was lost earlier this month, about nine minutes after being launched from the Baikonur space center in Kazakhstan.
The Proton is the largest of Russia’s fleet of space launch vehicles, and has carried both government and commercial payloads. Last July, a Proton rocket crashed shortly after liftoff showering the surrounding countryside with 600 tons of flaming propellants.