A fragment of a Russian satellite that fell back to Earth after a failed launch crashed into a village in Siberia, hitting a house on a street named after cosmonauts, officials say.
The Meridian communications satellite failed to reach orbit yesterday due to a failure with its Soyuz rocket, in the latest setback for a Russian space program which has now lost over half a dozen satellites in the past year.
Its fragments crashed into the Novosibirsk region of central Siberia and were found in the Ordynsk district around 100km south of the regional capital Novosibirsk.
“A sphere was found, around 50cm in diameter, which crashed into the roof of a house in the village of Vagaitsevo” in the Ordynsk district, an official in the local security services told the Interfax news agency.
In an extraordinary irony, the official said that the house was located on Cosmonaut Street, named after the heroic spacemen of the Soviet and Russian space program.
The head of the Ordynsk district, Pavel Ivarovksy, told Interfax that the damage was being examined by specialists and the owner of the property, who was at home with his wife at the time, would receive compensation.
“The owner told me he heard a noise, then a crash, and he went outside and saw the damage,” he said. There were no reports of casualties.
The failure of the Soyuz-2.1B rocket to deliver its payload is a particular worry as it comes from a member of the same family that Russia uses to send multinational manned crews to the International Space Station (ISS).
An unmanned Progress supply ship bound for the ISS crashed into Siberia in August after its launch by a Soyuz, forcing the temporary grounding of the rockets and well as a wholesale re-jig of the station’s staffing.
The loss of the Meridian satellite caps a disastrous 12 months for Russia that has already seen it lose three navigation satellites, an advanced military satellite, a telecommunications satellite, a probe for Mars as well as the Progress.
“This again shows that the (Russian space) industry is in crisis,” admitted Vladimir Popovkin, the head of the Russian space agency Roscosmos, in comments broadcast on state television. “It is deeply unpleasant.”
Acknowledging that the jobs of the Roscosmos leadership were at risk, he added: “I think it is possible that the organisational conclusions will be quite severe, right up to including myself.”