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Software glitch blamed for CryoSat loss

Rockot still ok to fly again

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Officials investigating the loss of the CryoSat mission have revealed that a software glitch in the on board flight control system on the new, upper stage of the rocket was to blame.

There is no fault with the Rockot launcher itself, Russian officials said, which means it has been cleared for future flights, the BBC reports.

CryoSat launched from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome in Russia on 8 October, but not long into the launch a malfunction meant it had to be aborted and the rocket, along with its €123m payload went into the icy sea.

The satellite was loaded on a Rockot launcher, a modified military rocket with an additional upper stage, known as Breeze. Everything on board Rokot went as planned, but the second and third stages of the engines failed to ignite, meaning the satellite simply didn't have the necessary power behind it to reach orbit.

"We confirm from the information we have from the State Commission that there was a problem with the software flight control system in the Breeze upper stage of the launcher," European Space Agency spokesperson, Simonetta Cheli told the BBC. "This problem caused the failure of the shutdown of the engine of the second stage of the launcher."

CryoSat was designed to test the prediction that climate change is causing the ice at the poles to thin. It was to use an onboard radar altimeter to measure the thickness of sea ice at the poles, as well as land-locked ice sheets.

The team behind CryoSat is calling for the mission to be restarted, but the research councils that hold the purse strings on such things say it is too early to say whether that would be possible. ®

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