Moscow - A program error caused a Russian Proton-M carrier rocket to deviate from its course and lose a booster carrying three Glonass-M satellites, a source in the Russian space industry said on Monday.
Sunday's launch of the Proton-M carrier rocket was supposed to deliver satellites for the completion of Russia's Glonass satellite navigation system.
However, the rocket, which blasted off from the Baikonur space center in Kazakhstan, deviated from its course by 8 degrees, resulting in the loss of the DM-3 booster with the satellites. According to unofficial reports, the spacecraft fell into the Pacific Ocean to the northwest of Hawaii.
"According to preliminary information, there were no technical problems with the Proton itself during lift-off. A range of specialists consider that program errors in Proton's onboard computer led to the engines failing to function as normal, giving the rocket an extra boost and taking it into the wrong orbit," the source said.
The Proton's onboard computer was developed by specialists of the Russian Pilyugin space equipment construction center, he said.
Glonass is the Russian equivalent of the U.S. Global Positioning System, or GPS, and is designed for both military and civilian use. Both systems allow users to determine their positions to within a few meters.
Russia currently has a total of 26 Glonass satellites in orbit, and all but three are operational. The three lost Glonass-M satellites would have allowed Russia to operate a complete Glonass network of 24 operational satellites and have several satellites in reserve.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev demanded an investigation into the loss of the satellites and ordered Prosecutor General Yury Chaika to carry out a check on spending on the Glonass system.