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Satellite to Monitor Polar Ice Crashes

October 09, 2005|From Reuters

MOSCOW — A satellite designed to measure how fast the polar ice caps are melting crashed into the Arctic Ocean after its launch in northern Russia went awry, the European Space Agency said Saturday.

The agency's Cryosat satellite was launched from Russia's Plesetsk Cosmodrome on board a converted nuclear missile, but a stage of the rocket's booster system failed to fire.

"The confirmation we have is that there has been a failure and that ... the satellite with part of the launcher has fallen into the sea," ESA spokesman Franco Bonacina said.

Equipment on board Cryosat was designed to allow it to take precise measurements of the polar ice caps, which many scientists believe are thinning as a result of global warming and could lead to higher sea levels.

The satellite is reported to have cost $165 million and was to have stayed in orbit gathering data for three years.

The crash could deal a blow to Russia's lucrative commercial space launch industry, a spinoff from its nuclear weapons program that now puts a large proportion of the world's satellites into orbit.

Russian space agency Roskosmos ordered a halt to some launches pending an investigation of the crash, Interfax news reported.

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