A total of 19 satellites launched aboard a Soyuz rocket early on Tuesday morning are believed to have been lost. Roscosmos has confirmed that the mission’s primary payload, the agency’s Meteor-M No.2-1 weather satellite is not in its planned orbit.
According to Russia’s state-operated RIA Novosti news agency, the Soyuz rocket performed perfectly placing the Fregat upper state into an arcing ballistic trajectory. The failure is believed to have been as a result of a fault in the Fregat’s guidance computer, which is separate from the rocket’s systems. 9 minutes and 23 seconds into the launch, the upper stage detached from the Soyuz rocket and took an unexpected turn just prior to its 77-second orbital insertion burn. The subsequent burn resulted in the 19 satellites burning up in Earth’s atmosphere.
Although still unconfirmed, a British Airways flight crew are believed to have captured the doomed Fregat burning up in the atmosphere. The video shared on Twitter shows an object breaking apart around 1,200 kilometres (750 miles) southwest of Reykjavik, Iceland, along the rocket’s planned flight path. The video was taken less than half an hour after the launch of the Soyuz rocket from Vostochny.
A friend of mine sent me this video coming back from Montreal. A Russian satellite was lost after failing to enter orbit, and they believe this is it burning up entering the Earth's atmosphere. It's absolutely STUNNING to watch. #AviationLovers #Space pic.twitter.com/O7yrTD62Uo
— Victoria (@ThatJetsetGirl) November 28, 2017
Roscosmos is yet to make an official statement confirming the failure of Tuesday’s mission. Canadian satellite operator, Telesat has, however, released confirmed the loss of their prototype satellite. “Telesat learned this morning that the Soyuz 2 launch vehicle that was to place 19 spacecraft into orbit, including Telesat’s first Phase 1 LEO satellite, has failed,” said company officials.
Despite the failure, all Soyuz rockets have been cleared for continued operation.