A Proton-M rocket exploded today carrying one of Russia’s most advanced and powerful communication satellites with an estimated value of $US28 million. The cause of the crash — which occurred over Chinese territory — is still unconfirmed. This is the seventh Proton-M lost since 2011.
Oleg Ostapenko — head the Russian national space agency Roscosmos — said that it was probably caused by a failure in one of the third stage’s steering engines. The failure occurred around nine minutes after launch.
The explosion happened in the upper layers of the atmosphere and there are no reports of casualties, although some fragments may have fallen into the Pacific Ocean.
The Proton-M can place 21 tonnes of equipment into the upper earth atmosphere, 5.5 tonnes into geosynchronous transfer orbit or 3 tonnes into geosynchronous orbit. They are launched from Kazakhstan and commercial launches are marketed by International Launch Services, a US-Russian joint venture.