Earlier this month, a Russian rocket carrying three satellites veered off course just seconds after blast off and exploded in a fiery display. Now, a report states it’s because equipment was “installed upside down.”
The website Russian Space Web, which is run by Anatoly Zak, reported a timeline of events since the July 2 crash near the launch pad in Kazakhstan.
Although Russian Space Web noted Vladimir Popovkin, head of the Russian space agency, saying the investigation would determine a cause for the accident by the end of the month, it then reported that on July 9 it was “transpired that investigators sifting through the wreckage of the doomed rocket had found critical angular velocity sensors, DUS, installed upside down.”
Here’s more on the claimed faulty installation, for which Russian Space Web does not provide its source for the information:
Each of those sensors had an arrow that was suppose to point toward the top of the vehicle, however multiple sensors on the failed rocket were pointing downward instead. As a result, the flight control system was receiving wrong information about the position of the rocket and tried to “correct” it, causing the vehicle to swing wildly and, ultimately, crash. The paper trail led to a young technician responsible for the wrong assembly of the hardware, but also raised serious issues of quality control at the Proton’s manufacturing plant, at the rocket’s testing facility and at the assembly building in Baikonur. It appeared that no visual control of the faulty installation had been conducted, while electrical checks had not detected the problem since all circuits had been working correctly.
The country’s official news agency Ria Novosti also stated that officials said results from the investigation wouldn’t be ready until the end of the month, but “some media outlets reported on Tuesday that the explosion of the rocket was caused by sloppy assembly work.”
In case you missed the explosion, here’s the footage:
Bloomberg is reporting too that some think there might be a bit of a conspiracy surrounding the failed launch:
The ever-expanding investigations have caused some bloggers to speculate that the July 2 launch was never meant to be successful. “Many people think the satellites were not operational and the accident was planned,” wrote blogger Alexander Trifonov.
The corruption fighter Alexei Navalny also blamed the Proton disaster on graft: “If everything has been stolen, it won’t fly.”
In December 2010, a Proton failure led to the loss of three GLONASS-M navigation satellites. Russia has boasted about GLONASS as an equivalent of the U.S. GPS. An investigation revealed that the mishap was caused by extra fuel loaded into the booster because of human error.
In August 2011, a state-of-the art telecommunications satellite was lost when a Proton upper stage suffered a malfunction. An official probe concluded that the failure was caused by an error in calculations.
Another failed Proton launch in August 2012 led to the loss of two communications satellites.
Russian space officials have blamed these and other recent failures on manufacturing flaws and engineering mistakes. But observers say that the problem is rooted in a post-Soviet industrial meltdown that has stalled the modernization of the space industry and led to a brain drain and a steady erosion of engineering and quality standards.
Russia’s Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev on Tuesday ordered his deputy to punish those responsible for the latest failure and come up with a plan to tighten control of the space industry.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
(H/T: Ars Technica)