Russian rocket fails to reach orbit

Russia’s federal space agency said today that an unmanned rocket and its payload of two communications satellites failed to reach orbit, the latest in a series of failures that has dogged Moscow’s space programme.

Roscosmos said a secondary booster module of the Proton-M rocket carrying Russian and Indonesian satellites switched off earlier than expected minutes after taking off from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan late last night.

Last August, Russia lost contact with a communications satellite shortly after a Proton-M launch. In 2007, a Proton-M carrying a Japanese communications satellite crashed.

Roscosmos spokesman Alexei Kuznetsov told the Itar Tass news agency today that Roscosmos might halt Proton-M launches after an investigation.

The 165ft (50m) long booster with a payload of up to 20 metric tons has been in use since 1965.

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