Image: A Proton-M rocket, carrying the Russian
AFP - Getty Images
A Proton-M rocket, carrying three Glonass-M satellites, blasts off from the Russian-leased Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Dec. 5. The satellites crashed into the Pacific after the rocket carrying them failed to reach orbit — and that failure has led to the firing of two Russian space officials.
By
updated 12/29/2010 9:41:46 PM ET 2010-12-30T02:41:46

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has formally reprimanded the chief of his country's national space agency and fired two other high-ranking space officials over the loss of three state-of-the-art navigation satellites in a botched rocket launch earlier this month.

The decision, announced by the Kremlin on Wednesday, comes after an investigation into the Dec. 5 launch failure of a Russian-built Proton rocket carrying three new Glonass-M navigation satellites.

The satellites never reached orbit. Instead, they plunged back to Earth and crashed in the Pacific Ocean north of Hawaii.

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A follow-up investigation traced the failure to an embarrassing mistake: Technicians apparently loaded the Proton rocket's Block DM-3 upper stage with one to two tons more fuel than planned, which sent the booster off course.

According to the Kremlin statement, Medvedev fired Viktor Remishevsky, deputy chief of Russia's Federal Space Agency, and Vyacheslav Filin, vice president and deputy chief of the rocket manufacturer RSC Energia, after receiving the report on the launch failure investigation.

The two space officials were fired "for the errors made in the calculations for refueling the vehicle's Block DM-3 upper stage," according to the statement.

Medvedev also issued a formal reprimand to Anatoly Perminov, chief of Russia's Federal Space Agency (also known as Roscosmos).

"Roscosmos will take additional measures to reinforce disciplinary measures," the statement read.

Soon after the launch failure, Russian investigators traced the cause to the overfueling blunder and cleared the rest of the Proton rocket of any concern.

The Proton rocket fleet successfully returned to flight on Monday with the launch of a Ka-Sat broadband communications satellite for Eutelsat.

Russia's Glonass-M satellites perform a navigation service to Russian civilian and military customers similar to U.S. global positioning system satellites. The satellites each weigh just over 3,000 pounds (1,415 kilograms) at liftoff and are designed to last seven years in orbit, according to the satellite fleet manufacturer Information Satellite Systems Reshetnev Co.

There are 26 Glonass satellites in orbit, with two reserved as spares. The satellite constellation is split into three groups of eight craft to provide global coverage.

A new series of Glonass satellite, the Glonass-K series, is currently in development, Russian space officials have said.

You can follow Space.com managing editor Tariq Malik on Twitter via @tariqjmalik.

© 2013 Space.com. All rights reserved. More from Space.com.

Photos: Month in Space: January 2014

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  1. Southern stargazing

    Stars, galaxies and nebulas dot the skies over the European Southern Observatory's La Silla Paranal Observatory in Chile, in a picture released on Jan. 7. This image also shows three of the four movable units that feed light into the Very Large Telescope Interferometer, the world's most advanced optical instrument. Combining to form one larger telescope, they are greater than the sum of their parts: They reveal details that would otherwise be visible only through a telescope as large as the distance between them. (Y. Beletsky / ESO) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. A balloon's view

    Cameras captured the Grandville High School RoboDawgs' balloon floating through Earth's upper atmosphere during its ascent on Dec. 28, 2013. The Grandville RoboDawgs’ first winter balloon launch reached an estimated altitude of 130,000 feet, or about 25 miles, according to coaches Mike Evele and Doug Hepfer. It skyrocketed past the team’s previous 100,000-feet record set in June. The RoboDawgs started with just one robotics team in 1998, but they've grown to support more than 30 teams at public schools in Grandville, Mich. (Kyle Moroney / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Spacemen at work

    Russian cosmonauts Oleg Kotov, right, and Sergey Ryazanskiy perform maintenance on the International Space Station on Jan. 27. During the six-hour, eight-minute spacewalk, Kotov and Ryazanskiy completed the installation of a pair of high-fidelity cameras that experienced connectivity issues during a Dec. 27 spacewalk. The cosmonauts also retrieved scientific gear outside the station's Russian segment. (NASA) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Special delivery

    The International Space Station's Canadian-built robotic arm moves toward Orbital Sciences Corp.'s Cygnus autonomous cargo craft as it approaches the station for a Jan. 12 delivery. The mountains below are the southwestern Alps. (NASA) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Accidental art

    A piece of art? A time-lapse photo? A flickering light show? At first glance, this image looks nothing like the images we're used to seeing from the Hubble Space Telescope. But it's a genuine Hubble frame that was released on Jan. 27. Hubble's team suspects that the telescope's Fine Guidance System locked onto a bad guide star, potentially a double star or binary. This caused an error in the tracking system, resulting in a remarkable picture of brightly colored stellar streaks. The prominent red streaks are from stars in the globular cluster NGC 288. (NASA / ESA) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Supersonic test flight

    A camera looking back over Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo's fuselage shows the rocket burn with a Mojave Desert vista in the background during a test flight of the rocket plane on Jan. 10. Cameras were mounted on the exterior of SpaceShipTwo as well as its carrier airplane, WhiteKnightTwo, to monitor the rocket engine's performance. The test was aimed at setting the stage for honest-to-goodness flights into outer space later this year, and eventual commercial space tours.

    More about SpaceShipTwo on PhotoBlog (Virgin Galactic) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Red lagoon

    The VLT Survey Telescope at the European Southern Observatory's Paranal Observatory in Chile captured this richly detailed new image of the Lagoon Nebula, released on Jan. 22. This giant cloud of gas and dust is creating intensely bright young stars, and is home to young stellar clusters. This image is a tiny part of just one of 11 public surveys of the sky now in progress using ESO telescopes. (ESO/VPHAS team) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Fire on the mountain

    This image provided by NASA shows a satellite view of smoke from the Colby Fire, taken by the Multi-angle Imaging SpectroRadiometer aboard NASA's Terra spacecraft as it passed over Southern California on Jan. 16. The fire burned more than 1,863 acres and forced the evacuation of 3,700 people. (NASA via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Where stars are born

    An image captured by NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope shows the Orion Nebula, an immense stellar nursery some 1,500 light-years away. This false-color infrared view, released on Jan. 15, spans about 40 light-years across the region. The brightest portion of the nebula is centered on Orion's young, massive, hot stars, known as the Trapezium Cluster. But Spitzer also can detect stars still in the process of formation, seen here in red hues. (NASA / JPL-Caltech) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Cygnus takes flight

    Orbital Sciences Corp.'s Antares rocket rises from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility on Wallops Island, Va, on Jan. 9. The rocket sent Orbital's Cygnus cargo capsule on its first official resupply mission to the International Space Station. (Chris Perry / NASA) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. A long, long time ago...

    This long-exposure picture from the Hubble Space Telescope, released Jan. 8, is the deepest image ever made of any cluster of galaxies. The cluster known as Abell 2744 appears in the foreground. It contains several hundred galaxies as they looked 3.5 billion years ago. Abell 2744 acts as a gravitational lens to warp space, brightening and magnifying images of nearly 3,000 distant background galaxies. The more distant galaxies appear as they did more than 12 billion years ago, not long after the Big Bang. (NASA / NASA via AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Frosty halo

    Sun dogs are bright spots that appear in the sky around the sun when light is refracted through ice crystals in the atmosphere. These sun dogs appeared on Jan. 5 amid brutally cold temperatures along Highway 83, north of Bismarck, N.D. The temperature was about 22 degrees below zero Fahrenheit, with a 50-below-zero wind chill.

    Slideshow: The Year in Space (Brian Peterson / The Bismarck Tribune via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
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