Updated at 12:04 p.m., Thursday, September 6, 2007
Rocket crash wrecks Pacific communications satellite
Advertiser news servicesMOSCOW A Russian rocket exploded on takeoff today, destroying a satellite that would have provided communications for links for the Pacific region, including Hawai'i, the Russian news agency RIA Novosti reported.
The Proton-M booster rocket was launched from the Baikonur space center in Kazakhstan at 2:43 a.m. Moscow time, a Russian space agency spokesman said.
The rocket experienced an engine malfunction and second-stage separation failure 139 seconds into its flight, and came down in the central Kazakh steppe, 30 miles southeast of the town of Dzhezkazgan, the spokesman said.
The rocket was carrying highly toxic heptyl rocket fuel, and an investigative team will soon be sent to determine any environmental impacts, he said.
Russia and Kazakhstan have an agreement on launches from Baikonur until 2050, for which Moscow pays $115 million a year. However, Kazakhstan recently said it would reconsider allowing further flights of the Proton because of the rocket fuel's toxicity and potential for catastrophic environmental contamination.
The satellite was owned by a Japanese company, JSat Corp., and would have provided communications links for Japan, the Pacific Region and Hawai'i. The company currently operates eight geostationary communications satellites.