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Russia launch ends in embarrassment

AFP-JIJI

A rocket carrying Russia’s most advanced communication satellite to date fell back to Earth minutes after liftoff Friday in the latest blow to the country’s space industry.

Space officials said the Proton’s control engine failed 545 seconds after its blastoff from the Baikonur space center, which Moscow leases in Kazakhstan.

State television showed the carrier and its Express-AM4P satellite burning up in the upper layers of the atmosphere above China.

Russia’s Roscosmos federal space agency said it had formed a commission “to analyze the telemetric data and discover the reasons for the irregular situation.”

The $205 million satellite was meant to provide Internet access to isolated Russian regions. Astrium said on its website that the Express-AM4P had been set to become “the most powerful Russian telecommunications satellite” ever built.