Russia schedules first Proton rocket launch since crash

July 29, 2015
A Russian-built Proton rocket blasts off from a launch pad at Kazakhstan's Baikonur cosmodrome on April 28, 2014

Russia on Wednesday set a date for the first Proton rocket launch since an engine failure in May saw a Mexican satellite destroyed.

Authorities said a Proton-M rocket would blast off from the Baikonur launch site in Kazakhstan on August 28 carrying a British Inmarsat-5F3 commercial communications satellite.

A similar rocket bearing a Mexican satellite fell back to earth on May 16 after suffering an engine malfunction, in one of a string of embarrassing failures for Russia's troubled space programme.

The state-run Khrunichev Centre spacecraft maker said that a probe into the disaster showed it was due to a construction flaw in one of the engines.

"A plan to eradicate the reasons for the engine failure has been fulfilled," it said in a statement.

The Proton-M failure in May came exactly a year after the same model of rocket carrying Russia's most advanced communications satellite fell back to Earth minutes after lift-off. That accident was later blamed on a damaged ball bearing.

Based on a Soviet-era design, the Proton-M is viewed as one of the workhorses of the space industry and Russia is developing a new generation of rockets to succeed it.

The May accident also happened a few days after an unmanned Russian Progress cargo craft burnt up in the Earth's atmosphere after suffering a communications failure on its way to the International Space Station (ISS).

Last week three astronauts arrived safely at the orbiting research station on the first manned flight since the malfunction.

© 2015 AFP