MOSCOW, May 29 (RIA Novosti) – A government commission investigating the recent crash of a Proton-M rocket believes a third stage engine glitch was at fault, while not ruling out that the failure occurred because of sabotage.
“The version of premeditated sabotage has not been ruled out,” Roscosmos quoted the head of the commission, First Deputy General Director of the Central Research Institute of Machine Building (TsNIIMash) Alexander Danilyuk, as saying.
Danilyuk gave no details at what stage during the rocket’s assembly sabotage could have occurred.
Last week, Danilyuk said four causes of the Proton-M accident were being considered. The commission quickly excluded the accident’s cause as a result of a control system failure.
Roscosmos Head Oleg Ostapenko earlier said an emergency shutdown of the third stage engine was being considered as the primary cause of the accident.
The investigation has found “no violations” at the Voronezh-based Khimavtomatika Design Bureau, which manufactures third stage engines for Proton space rockets, and at the Khrunichev State Space Research and Production Center.
The Proton-M rocket suffered an unknown failure and was lost May 16, about nine minutes after being launched from the Baikonur space center in Kazakhstan. The upper stage and its payload, the advanced Express-AM4R communications satellite, burned up in the atmosphere above China, with no debris reaching Earth.
The Express-AM4R satellite was manufactured by Astrium, an aerospace subsidiary of the European Aeronautic Defense and Space Company (EADS), and was built as part of Russia’s space program for 2006-2015. The crashed rocket was insured for 7.8 billion rubles ($224 million).