Feeds

Human error blamed for toxic Russian rocket explosion

So, which way is up then?

Seven Steps to Software Security

Russia's latest rocket mishap, which saw three of the Glonass satellites needed to upgrade the country's global positioning system destroyed in a fiery inferno, is reported to have been the fault of a technician not knowing which way is up.

After sorting through the wreckage, the investigating team has found a flight control system's sensors were put in the wrong way around. They are marked with an arrow indicating which end of the sensor goes up, but the technician involved seems to have missed this.

"The angular velocity sensors were wired up with the wrong polarity. Therefore, the rocket was orientated incorrectly," a source close to the investigation told the Russian news agency Interfax.

Last week's Proton-M launch failed after 17 seconds as the rocket veered out of control. It detonated a few miles away from the launch site in an enormous explosion, spreading 600 tons of toxic heptyl, amyl, and kerosene rocket fuel over the landscape and creating a poisonous cloud that passed over populated areas.

Turning your volume down is advised

Other reasons for the crash reportedly being investigated are that the rocket launched early and that the engines overcompensated to ensure lift-off, damaging the motors due to excess stress and causing loss of control.

One Russian blogger is even suggesting it was a staged failure in the style of Capricorn One, to cover up the fact that the latest Glonass satellites aren’t fully functional yet.

Nevertheless it's an embarrassing failure for the Russian space agency, not to mention a costly one. The Glonass satellites are valued at $200m, but the damage to the Proton-M's reputation could prove more expensive in the long run.

This is the fourth rocket failure for the Proton-M and the second in less than a year. The market for orbital delivery is becoming a lot more competitive, with SpaceX doing well and the European's Ariane 5 booster enjoying an excellent safety record. The Russians will be taking a long, hard look at the program, government ministers have said.

As for the technician who reportedly misassembled the flight system, El Reg expects he'll currently be enjoying a new role counting trees, an old Russian term for being sent to an outpost in the wilds of Siberia. ®

The Power of One eBook: Top reasons to choose HP BladeSystem

More from The Register

next story
Bad back? Show some spine and stop popping paracetamol
Study finds common pain-killer doesn't reduce pain or shorten recovery
Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 claimed lives of HIV/AIDS cure scientists
Researchers, advocates, health workers among those on shot-down plane
World Solar Challenge contender claims new speed record
One charge sees Sunswift travel 500kms at over 100 km/h
SMELL YOU LATER, LOSERS – Dumbo tells rats, dogs... humans
Junk in the trunk? That's what people have
Beancounters tell NASA it's too poor to fly planned mega-rocket
Space Launch System would need another $400m and a lot of time
All those new '5G standards'? Here's the science they rely on
Radio professor tells us how wireless will get faster in the real world
The Sun took a day off last week and made NO sunspots
Someone needs to get that lazy star cooking again before things get cold around here
prev story

Whitepapers

Top three mobile application threats
Prevent sensitive data leakage over insecure channels or stolen mobile devices.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
Application security programs and practises
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
The Essential Guide to IT Transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIO's automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise.