Russian Space Agency Now Loses Contact With Angolan Satellite

Roscosmos, the Russian Space Agency, claims that they are unable to contact the Angolan telecommunications satellite, which was launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome. According to Roscosmos, even though the satellite was launched successfully on Dec. 27, ground control could not receive the telemetric data shortly after it got into its orbit.

Russian Space Agency
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Another embarrassment for the Russian Space Agency

According to the Russian Space Agency, officials are trying to resume contact with AngoSat-1, the African country’s first telecom satellite. At the time of launch, Angola’s minister of telecommunication and information technologies Jose Carvalho da Rocha stated that AngoSat-1 would be significant in boosting telemedicine by reaching out to the places that do not have easy access to medical professionals or facilities.

The Angolan space agency says that it would be too early to say that the communication has been lost permanently.

Speaking to AFP, Da Costa N’ganga, marketing director at Infrasat, a company in Angola overseeing the satellite project stated, “It’s correct that after the launch there was a (communications) disconnect.”  However, the expert added that the “nature of the technology means that we will need to wait 24 hours to know for sure what has happened.”

It is not totally unusual for a satellite to lose contact with the control center. For instance, in 2006, NASA was able to reconnect with a lost satellite after nearly two years of losing contact, notes the Japan Times.

The Angolan satellite, which was financed by a loan from Russia, was launched to improve the telecommunications in one of Africa’s top oil producers. In 2009, both Russia and Angola reached an agreement to kick-start an approximately $280 million project, which includes the satellite, its launch and on-ground infrastructure.

Energia, Russia’s top spacecraft maker, manufactured the satellite for Angola. The satellite was developed for a 15-year mission to improve satellite communications, TV services and internet access. Some 50 Angolan aerospace engineers were to supervise the functioning of the satellite from a control center.

Russia was more inclined towards its new Angara rocket to launch the satellite, but later the Zenit rocket was finalized to be the launch rocket. The launch was postponed several times for one reason or another. The Zenit-2SB rocket was from the Ukrainian maker Yuzhmash, notes

Human error to blame for previously lost satellite

Just last month, Russia saw another unsuccessful launch of a satellite from its new Vostochny facility in Siberia. A second failure would be a major setback for Moscow’s space program as Angola is a new client. The country was looking to crack similar deals with other countries.

Talking of the lost satellite which was launched last month from Russia’s new Vostochny cosmodrome, Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin stated that the failure was the result of human error.  According to Rogozin, wrong coordinates were fed to the satellite. The satellite was given bearings for a take-off from a different cosmodrome — Baikonur, which Moscow leases from Kazakhstan, notes The Guardian.

“The rocket was really programmed as if it was taking off from Baikonur,” said Rogozin. “They didn’t get the coordinates right.”

The lost rocket carried eighteen smaller satellites belonging to scientific, research and commercial companies from Russia, Sweden, Norway, Canada, Japan, the U.S. and Germany.