MOSCOW — A few hours after the U.S. robot explorer Curiosity successfully landed on Mars and began transmitting images of the Red Planet, America’s Russian collaborators in the International Space Station project suffered another setback in their battered space program with the potential of endangering the station itself.
A Russian Proton-M booster rocket launched Tuesday morning from Baikonur Space Center in Kazakhstan failed to deliver Indonesian and Russian telecommunication satellites into orbit, instead adding millions of dollars worth of space junk into Earth’s orbit.
The launch proceeded normally until the acceleration engine block Briz-M switched off by itself only seven seconds after its third ignition instead of the more than 18 minutes required to put the Russian Express-MD2 and the Indonesian Telcom 3 satellites into their orbits, Russian space officials said.
There is “not a chance” at this point to do anything to correct the error, said Alexei Kuznetsov, spokesman for the Russian Space Agency.
Kuznetsov didn’t rule out a possibility that the now-useless satellites and the engine block may pose danger to the International Space Station but said it was “very unlikely.”