While the United States was still in the afterglow of landing the Curiosity rover on Mars, a world away, Russians added another chapter of failure to their sad space program as a faulty rocket stranded two unrecoverable satellites in low orbit. If this were the 60s and we were still in the mindset of the space race, the U.S.'s Mars accomplishment might make Russia's failure sting even more, but sadly, Tuesday's failed rocket launch has become the norm for the Roscosmos, the Russian space agency. "The booster's first stages worked fine, but the upper stage intended to give the final push to the satellites switched off prematurely," The Associated Press' Vladimir Isachenkov reported, adding: "The agency [Roscosmos] said that the engine's malfunction stranded the Russian Express MD-2 and Indonesia's Telkom-3 satellites in a low orbit where they can't be recovered."
Plain and simple, that's some space junk just like Russia's Phobos-Grunt spacecraft which came crashing down in January--two months into its promised two-and-a-half-year interplanetary journey. As we noted then, the Russians sort of tried to blame sabotage for their bad space crafting instead of a tradition of faulty space things like the Soyuz booster rocket, the three navigation satellites lost in December of 2010, a military satellite in February 2011, and a telecommunications satellite in the wrong orbit almost one year ago. And why is it so bad? As The AP explains:
Officials blamed the botched launches on the post-Soviet industrial meltdown that stymied modernization of a once-proud space program, which put the first satellite in orbit and sent the first human into space. Despite a steady increase of funding thanks to oil revenues, Russia's space industries continue to rely on obsolete equipment and an aging workforce, and production standards have degraded.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.