A Ukrainian Zenith-2 rocket carrying twelve commercial satellites crashed yesterday in southern Siberia, five minutes after launch from Baikonur, Kazakhstan. The launch was the first in a series of three. It represents a joint Russian-Ukrainian contribution to the Globalstar consortium’s program to put thirty-six commercial communication satellites into orbit by the end of 1999. Led by the U.S. company Loral, the consortium includes additional U.S. as well as French, German, British, Italian and South Korean firms. It plans two further Zenith-2 launches from Baykonur in October and December. That plan is now under serious question. The Zenith-2 is also slated to be used on the Sea Launch system, which is being developed by a Boeing-led consortium of U.S, Russian, Ukrainian and Norwegian firms.
Adapted from former Soviet intercontinental ballistic missiles, the two-stage Zenith-2 rockets are designed and produced by the Pivdenne Bureau and Pivdenmash plant in Dnipropetrovsk, Ukraine. Yesterday’s crash has already been traced to two computer faults that affected the functioning of the boosters. Pivdenmash management pointed out that the malfunctioning computer had been produced by an institute in Moscow. Pivdenne management, while admitting to “a great blow to the Bureau and to Ukraine,” noted that the Russian Soyuz rocket failed in thirteen out of thirty launches, compared to a failure rate of eight out of twenty-nine launches for Ukraine’s Zenith-1 and Zenith-2 rockets. (Western, Russian and Ukrainian agencies, Eastern Economist Daily (Kyiv), September 10 and 11)
FUNDING FOR TRANSPORT ROUTES SEEMS WITHIN REACH.