MEXICO CITY – Mexico’s Communications and Transportation Secretary Gerardo Ruiz Esparza said Saturday that the government will suffer no economic losses from the disintegration of the Russian spacecraft and the Mexican communications satellite Centenario that it was carrying.
“In this case the (Communications) Secretariat took the necessary precautions, given that it’s not unusual to insure 100 percent of a satellite’s worth,” Ruiz Esparza told a press conference at the Satellite Control Center in Hermosillo, capital of the northwestern state of Sonora.
He added that “the total amount can be recovered by the government,” which invested around $300 million in the satellite and $90 million in the launch, which took place Saturday at 12:47 a.m. Central Mexico Time (0547 GMT) at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.
The secretary added that the mobile communications services that would have been provided by Centenario will be covered by the Morelos 3 satellite, which is the same size, has the same technical capabilities, and will be launched in the coming months from Cape Canaveral, Florida.
“That service is practically guaranteed, we’ll soon have the Morelos 3 and in a few months we’ll have it installed,” he said.
With regard to the disaster, he said that “if Mexico is going to take part in these technologies, we have to learn to live with risks like this.”
Meanwhile, James Kramer, vice president of International Launch Service (ILS), the company in charge of the liftoff, said the Russian carrier rocket Proton M took off as scheduled.
But, he said, at about 490 seconds after the launch, during the third stage of the Proton operation, an anomaly occurred that caused the third stage to come to an emergency halt, causing the loss of the rocket and the satellite it was carrying.
He said the next step will be an investigation of the failure by a Russian state commission.
Mark Spiwak, president of Boeing’s satellite division that created Mexsat-1, said the firm is ready to collaborate with all its resources in the investigation of the anomaly and to back the Mexican government in the launch of Morelos 3.
Soon after the launch at Baikonur of the rocket carrying the Centenario satellite, the Russian space agency Roscosmos announced that the Mexican satellite had disintegrated in the atmosphere.
“The accident occurred at a height of 161 kilometers (100 miles). The third stage of the carrier missile and the space device have almost completely disintegrated in the atmosphere,” the space agency said in a communique.
“For now, we have not detected any falling fragments that have not burned up,” the source said, adding that the satellite was insured.
Roscosmos has created an investigative commission to determine the circumstances of the failure, while authorities are sending helicopters to the Lake Baikal region where residents heard a powerful explosion.
Centenario was designed to serve for 15 years, has an antenna 26 meters (85 feet) in diameter, and was to become fully operational 10 months after launch.
It was part of the Mexican satellite system (Mexsat) that also includes the Bicentenario satellite for landline communications, launched in December 2012, and the Morelos 3, scheduled to orbit toward the end of the year.
This was the second failure in the Russian space program in the last 24 hours, after it was found impossible to activate the motors on its expendable cargo spacecraft Progress, which was intended to correct the orbit of the International Space Station.
On last April 28, another failure caused the destruction of another Progress cargo spacecraft that was carrying food and oxygen for the ISS crew.