Proton Goes Kablooey, GLONASS-Ms Sleep With the Fishes

The Russian government has announced the formation of an investigative committee to review the weekend failure of a Proton rocket that destroyed three advanced navigational satellites:

Interagency Board has been established to investigate the failure which occurred on Dec. 5 during launch of Proton-M with three Glonass-M spacecraft. As a result of the failure, Glonass-M cluster was injected into non-targeted orbit. The Board comprises representatives of the Ministry of Defense, Russian Federal Space Agency, companies and organizations of the industry.

Media are reporting that the “non-targeted orbit” is actually the bottom of the Pacific Ocean. The failure is also reported to have cost about $500 million dollars, part of an overall $2 billion program.

GLONASS is the Russian equivalent of the American Global Positioning System (GPS). GLONASS begun during the Soviet era, and the successor Russian government has made it a high priority to complete and upgrade the system. Russia has 23 functioning GLONASS satellites in orbit. The three lost satellites were to provide a constellation of 24 satellites required for full global coverage plus two on-orbit spares.