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Satellite to burn in atmosphere above Pacific

Published time: March 25, 2012 11:26
Edited time: March 25, 2012 15:26
Russian Satellite Ekspress-AM4. (Image from space.skyrocket.de)

Russian Satellite Ekspress-AM4. (Image from space.skyrocket.de)

Russia’s ill-fated multifunctional communication Express-AM4 satellite that was delivered to the wrong orbit last year has started a controllable descent to Earth. The satellite will be destroyed somewhere above the northern part of the Pacific.

­Satellite’s propulsive unit was turned on at 14:33 MSK to give the 5,775-kilogram vehicle a de-orbital burn and the craft’s debris is expected to reach the surface at 17:32 MSK to the north of the Hawaiian Islands. The impact area will be closed for ships and planes for two hours.

The command to de-orbit the $150-million satellite was given by the Astrium Company, a subsidiary of EADS and leading European space company, that made the Express-AM4 and never passed it under control of the Russian customer.

On August 18, the Russian carrier Proton-M was launched from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, taking the Express-AM4 communication satellite into orbit in a bid to broaden telecommunications for Russia and the CIS countries. Hours later, contact with the satellite was lost.

It was established that the satellite had got into an incorrect orbit due to Briz-M upper stage malfunction.

Once it became clear the satellite will not be able to reach geostationary earth orbit with its own power pack, a decision was taken to destroy the Express-AM4.

The satellite had been expected to operate for 15 years. 

The launch of the remodeled satellite is expected to take place in 2014.