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Russians fall short in delivering U.S. satellite

Image: Russian Proton-M booster with U.S. built AMS-14 satellite
This Russian rocket carrying a U.S. satellite, shown here on its launch pad in Kazakhstan March 15, fell 5,000 miles short of its planned altitude of 22,400 miles.AP file
/ Source: The Associated Press

An unmanned Russian rocket failed to put a U.S. telecommunication satellite into its target orbit because it developed a booster rocket malfunction after lifting off Saturday from the Baikonur space facility in Kazakhstan.

"The second booster module switched off earlier than expected, which resulted in the craft failing to reach its designated target orbit," said the state-controlled Khrunichev State Research and Production Center, which made the Proton-M rocket carrying the satellite.

A state commission will review the incident, but it may take up to a month to provide a full account of what happened, said Vyacheslav Davidenko, a deputy spokesman for the center.

The Russian federal space agency said that the satellite could still be steered, but that it is 5,000 miles short of its planned altitude of 22,400 miles.

The AMC-14 satellite was designed and manufactured by Lockheed-Martin Corp. and has a standard service life of up to 15 years.

A Proton-M carrying a Japanese communications satellite malfunctioned after launching and crashed in Kazakhstan in September 2007.

In March 2006, a Proton-M booster rocket failed to put an Arab commercial satellite into orbit.

Russian-U.S. joint venture International Launch Service, which markets the rockets, said in a statement on its Web site that it plans to return Proton to flight as quickly as possible.