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The BBC's Jane Bennett-Powell
"Only fragments survived re-entry"
 real 56k

Thursday, 28 December, 2000, 10:47 GMT
Russia suffers fresh space setback
Graphic BBC
The Russian authorities are trying to locate the wreckage of a rocket, which disappeared shortly after its launch on Wednesday.

The Tsiklon-3 rocket successfully blasted off from a cosmodrome in north-west Russia, but the six satellites it was carrying failed to separate from the launch vehicle.

Reports say parts of the rocket and its cargo may have come down in the Bering Strait between Siberia and Alaska.

"The strategic missile forces have informed us that the rocket has fallen in the area of Wrangel Island," in the eastern Siberian sea, said Konstantin Kreidenko, a spokesman for the Russian Space Agency.

Escape velocity

Interfax reported that the rocket disappeared from controllers' screens shortly after blasting off at 2202 Moscow time (1902 GMT) from the Plesetsk military cosmodrome.

Tsiklon-3 AP
The Tsiklon-3 has a good record
The agency quotes the rocket's designers who say preliminary results of the analysis of telemetric measurements suggest there was a problem with the third stage of the vehicle. The rocket's control system is understood to have ordered the emergency shutdown of the engine in this stage only 367 seconds into the flight.

Interfax quotes the designers as saying the stage would not have had the required velocity to escape Earth's gravity and would have fallen back into the atmosphere and burnt up along with its satellite cargo.

The Defence ministry - which had been due to use three of the satellites - has announced a special commission to determine the exact cause of the incident.

Mir problems

This was the 118th launch of a Tsiklon-3, the first dating back to 1977. Out of the first 117 launches, only four were

unsuccessful. Experts put the workhorse rocket's reliability at 98%.

Russian space scientist considers Mir model AFP
The crash comes immediately after the latest Mir problem
Space programme officials were quoted as saying there was a danger of environmental damage if the rocket had crashed on land.

A Russian Kosmos-3M rocket carrying a $60m US satellite disappeared soon after its launch from Plesetsk in November.

The latest failure comes two days after the incident in which Russian controllers lost radio contact with the orbiting Mir space station for nearly 24 hours.

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27 Dec 00 | Sci/Tech
'Power failure' caused Mir problem
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