Saudi satellite misses orbit
The Arabsat 4A telecommunications satellite owned by the Saudi ARABSAT company was launched from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. It was atop a rocket equipped with an additional booster stage, the Russian Federal Space Agency said in a statement.
The rocket successfully delivered the satellite to a preliminary orbit, but the booster failed to function properly and could not deliver the satellite to a designated orbit, the agency said.
Engineers hoped to use the satellite's microengines to correct its position, although some experts believed the unit was lost.
'It's doubtful that they will be able to use it as a space telecommunications device as planned,' an unnamed specialist involved in the launch told the RIA Novosti news agency.
Arabsat-4A is a civilian satellite made by EADS Astrium for the Saudi ArabSat corporation. It is intended to operate for 15 yeras, serving customers in the Middle East, Asia and Europe.
It is another embarrassing failure of russian space program. In October, a high-profile European satellite was lost because of a Russian booster failure. The loss of the $142 million CryoSat satellite dealt a major blow to the European Space Agency, which had hoped to conduct a three-year mapping of polar ice caps and provide more reliable data for the study of global warming.
Also that month, space experts failed to recover an experimental space vehicle after its return, engineers lost contact with an earlier launched Russian Earth-monitoring satellite and a new optical research satellite was lost due to a booster failure.