Lost in Siberia: Military satellite falls to Earth

Russia’s military communications satellite has crash-landed in Siberia after failing to reach its planned orbit. The mishap was due to a malfunction in the rocket’s third stage, industry experts say.

­The Meridian-5 satellite was carried to orbit by a Soyuz-2.1B rocket launched from Plesetsk spaceport in the Arkhangelsk region at 1208 GMT on Friday.

According to preliminary data, the satellite fell to the south of the city of Novosibirsk.

One of the titanium fragments of the satellite around one meter in diameter has reportedly hit a house in Vagaytsevo village. The piece made a hole in the roof but injured nobody, Lifenews online tabloid reports.

"Early reports indicate that the emergency occurred during the third stage burn of the launch vehicle," Aerospace Forces spokesman Col. Alexei Zolotukhin said. “The coordinates of the area where the satellite fell are now being finalized.”

"The launch was normal, and ground stations took control of the launch vehicle at 4:11 p.m. Moscow time," Zolotukhin added.

Meridian is a new generation of military satellites designed to replace Molniya-3, Molniya-1 and Parus systems. The system will provide communication between vessels, aircraft, and coastal stations along the Northern Sea Route, as well as satellite services in circumpolar areas of Siberia and the Far East.

The first satellite of the series was put into orbit on December 24, 2006, and the fourth was positioned on May 4, 2011.

The botched operation means the launch of six Globalstar-2 spacecraft from the Baikonur space center in Kazakhstan on Soyuz-2.1A rockets could be now delayed.