The European Space Agency’s latest satellite has broken up and crashed into the sea.
The €135m satellite, called Cryosat, blasted off this evening from Russia's Plesetsk Cosmodrome, aboard a modified intercontinental ballistic missile, called Rockot. But it went missing a couple of hours later, around the time it should have shot into final orbit.
Cryosat was supposed to examine the effects of global warming on the polar ice caps. Instead it did its own little bit for global warming as it plunged into the icy Arctic Sea.
In a statement this evening, The European Space Agency said that Russian authorities blamed the crash on "an anomaly in the launch sequence".
The second stage performed nominally until main engine cut-off was to occur. Due to a missing command from the onboard flight control system the main engine continued to operate until depletion of the remaining fuel. As a consequence, the separation of the second stage from upper stage did not occur. Thus, the combined stack of the two stages and the CryoSat satellite fell into the nominal drop zone north of Greenland close to the North Pole into high seas with no consequences to populated areas.
A joint Russian-ESA team will investigate the cause of failure and expects to report back within a few weeks. ®