Changing the orbit of the European Astra-K1 communications and telecommunications satellite, which was launched on Monday night and met with an emergency, will be decided later in the afternoon, said Alexander Bobrenev, head of the press-service of the Khrunichev State Space Research and Production Centre. "Instead of reaching the target orbit with the parameters of 35786 to 3343.2 kilometres from the Earth and an inclination angle of 26.3 degrees it remained this morning practically in a circular reference orbit with a distance from the Earth of about 180-200 kilometres and an inclination angle of 51.6 degrees," he said. "This happened after the Proton-K carrier rocket, manufactured at our plant, performed as programmed and jettisoned, leaving in the reference orbit the DM-3 booster unit /the producer RKK Energiya, Korolyov, Moscow region/, linked up with the Astra-K1 satellite." The DM-3 was, during the 5 subsequent hours of flight, to have fired its sustainer engines thrice to put the satellite in the target orbit. But upon the second firing of the engines, one second later, the automatic unit of the DM-3 booster suddenly initiated a command for separation from the satellite. As a result, the 5-ton Astra-K1 remained in the reference orbit. The cause of what happened will be later established by a state commission.
"What to do in the current situation is now being decided by the client and owner of this satellite -- the European Union Satellite Centre. It is now in consultations with Russian specialists and the spacecraft maker -- French firm Alcatel," Bobrinev went on. "The satellite has its own engines and a certain amount of fuel. Whether it will be enough to put the spacecraft into the target orbit is yet unknown to Russian specialists." All these questions are being discussed and it is our hope that a decision will be taken later in the afternoon," concluded the Khrunichev spokesman.