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Russian weather satellite fails to enter orbit after launch

A Russian weather satellite and 18 micro-satellites from various nations have failed to enter their designated orbits after a launch from Russia's new cosmodrome, in another blow to the nation's space programme.

The Roscosmos space agency said it had failed to establish communications with the Meteor M 2-1 satellite that was launched on a Soyuz-2 booster rocket from Russia's new Vostochny launch pad in the Far East.

The Russian agency said it is trying to determine what happened.

Russian news agencies reported the likely cause was the failure of the booster's final stage, the Fregat, possibly caused by a software flaw.

The booster was also carrying micro-satellites built in Canada, Germany, Japan, Norway, Russia, Sweden and the US.

It was not immediately clear if the Meteor and other satellites fell into the ocean or were stranded in low orbit.

The glitch follows other failed launches in recent years that tarnished the reputation of Russian space industries. Some of the glitches were traced to manufacturing flaws.

President Vladimir Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov refrained from immediate comment, saying the Kremlin was expecting space officials' report.

The failed launch is the second since the Vostochny cosmodrome made its debut in April last year.

Russia spent billions building the new launch pad as a possible alternative to the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan that Moscow has leased from its former Soviet neighbour.

Some observers have disputed the feasibility of the expensive new facility, given that Russia plans to continue using Baikonur for most of its launches.

Construction work at Vostochny has been dogged by scandals involving protests by unpaid workers and the arrests of officials accused of embezzlement.

AP

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