A Soyuz-2.1B carrier rocket

Russian defence satellite lost in botched rocket launch

Russian news agencies have reported that the country has lost a defence satellite in space following a rocket launch over the weekend.

A Soyuz-2.1B carrier rocket [pictured] blasted out of the atmosphere on 5 December with two defence satellite’s in tow, but one did not separate from the upper stage and is now considered lost.

The rocket was launched from the Plesetsk cosmodrome in the Russian north-western Arkhangelsk region, with the Defence Ministry initially saying that the launch was successful.

This was the second launch of the Soyuz-2.1B three-stage carrier rocket that is used for placing payloads into low-Earth orbit. The first launch took place in late December 2013, the ministry said in its statement.

The ministry has so far not commented on reports of any issues arising from the launch but the TASS news agency cited an unnamed source that said that the Kanopus-ST satellite "was considered lost" after it failed to separate due to a malfunction of one of the four locks holding the satellite.

American, Russian and Japanese astronauts are expected to return to Earth from the International Space Station (ISS) aboard a Russian Soyuz capsule on 11 December.

The weekend’s events follow the botched launch of two satellites last year that are central to Europe's satellite navigation system, Galileo.

Those satellites were similarly attached to a Soyuz rocket and a Russian production flaw was blamed on why the two satellites were initially placed into the wrong orbit following launch.

The Cygnus space capsule also launched over the weekend to deliver cargo to the ISS. The rocket has endured an enforced 13-month break following an in-launch explosion in late October 2014 that resulted in the loss of 2,000kg of supplies and scientific experiments.

It was initially due for blast-off last week but was postponed until the weekend due to bad weather.

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