Rocket lost after being set to launch from wrong spaceport.
In terms of making a mistake at work, the resulting cost can range from a minor hiccup to a serious hit in the country’s budget. As Russian space program officials learned, one human mistake can be unbelievably expensive.
Roscosmos, which has been at work developing launch pad facilities for sending up orbital satellites, somehow managed to misplace a $45 million Meteor-M weather satellite last month. Investigators managed to discover why–if not where–and attributed it to a coordinates issue. The news comes following an admission by Russian deputy prime minister Dmitry Rogozin, that programmers gave the $45m device coordinates for Baikonur rather than Vostochny cosmodrome.
The coordinates in question belonged to the wrong launch pad, located in Vostochny. Instead, the rocket was programed with coordinates for a site on the other side of the country. Basically, the rocket carrying the payload (along with a total of 18 satellites owned by several other countries) was launched from location A, but the coordinates entered were those of location B. The team lost contact and location readings for the rocket carrying the expensive items.
Room with a view
Roscosmos has already suffered serious budgetary setbacks, and this certainly didn’t help. Of course, with the agency’s announcement that it is building a hotel on the International Space Station, guests who shell out the $40 million to be taken to ISS for a week and then returned to Earth might not be all too eager to sign up now. The site where the wayward satellite launched is the only civilian launch site in the country, and only had its first launch earlier this year.
Space travel is inherently filled with multiple opportunities for mishap. Roscosmos suffered an earlier satellite loss when a rocket exploded shortly after take off. Japan’s space program made news when its X-ray based space observatory satellite Hitomi blew up following calculated maneuvers. That incident has also been blamed on human errors, costing Japan a $273 million project.
It’s quite likely that the Meteor M carrier tried to correct its location based on what it believed to be accurate launch coordinates. This could have been the cause behind the rocket failing to reach orbit, potentially falling into the ocean.