ESA’s Cryosat suffers failure

by Chris Bergin

The European Space Agency (ESA) launched their Cryosat satellite on top of a converted SS-19 intercontinental ballistic missile from Russia on Saturday – but minutes into the launch the rocket failed.

Cryosat has been six years in the making and will help assess climate change data by orbiting the Earth’s poles and taking measurements of the polar ice caps.

“A command to separate the second stage of the carrier rocket didn’t get through at the 6th minute of the flight and communication with the probe wasn’t established at the designated time,” Alexander Bobrenyov, the press secretary of the Khrunichev center, said to the TASS news agency.

The rocket’s original payload would have been nuclear warheads during the Cold War, but has now become the Roctot vehicle which has a Breeze-KM upper stage, with its 135m Euro payload covered by a re-designed faring.

The satellite itself has a state of the art altimeter which has an ability to measure the depth of the polar ice caps from an orbit of over 450 miles above the Earth.

Launch occured on time at the scheduled 4:02pm UK time slot, with Cryosat’s mission manager appearing hopeful that weather conditions would be favourable for the mission to blast off on time from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome in Russia.

“The weather predictions are good, and three balloons will be launched on the day of the launch to check the winds in the upper atmosphere,” said Pascal Gilles of ESA to the BBC.

Cryosat was progressing well, according to ESA spokesman Franco Bonacina, talking to the AP.

“Everything is going normal, according to schedule. So far, so good.”

But then, after 319 seconds, communication with the rocket ended, with officials noting the launch had suffered a failure.

“The remnants of the satellite have fallen into the northern Arctic Sea,” Vyacheslav Davydenko, spokesman for the Russian Federal Space Agency said in a press conference.

“The booster unit did not switch on and it resulted in the failure of the satellite to reach orbit.”

ESA will be in action later next week when Arianespace’s fourth mission of the year will place two communications satellites into geostationary transfer orbit: Syracuse 3A for the French Ministry of Defence, and Galaxy 15 for the American satcom operator PanAmSat.

For this Flight, Arianespace will use a Ariane 5G launch vehicle.

Related Articles