Report: Upside-Down Sensors Toppled Russian Rocket | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio

NPR : News

Filed Under:

Report: Upside-Down Sensors Toppled Russian Rocket

Last week, we reported on the spectacular failure of a Russian Proton-M rocket launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Now, a report from Russian Space Web says investigators have traced the problem to a series of sensors that were apparently installed upside down.

The so-called angular velocity sensors (????? ??????? ???????? in Russian, according to NPR's Moscow bureau) were a critical part of the circuitry that kept the rocket upright during launch. They were so important, says Russian Space Web, that they even had little arrows on them that were supposed to point toward the top of the rocket.

That seemingly was not enough to prevent a young technician from installing them upside down, according to the site, which aims "to preserve and popularize history of space exploration, to promote cooperation in space and to provide independent coverage of space program."

The upside down sensors misinformed the rocket's flight control system. In this amateur video, you can actually see the massive machine wobble back and forth as the system appears to try to "correct" the problem:

It's important to note these reports are unconfirmed. The official investigation by the Russian Federal Space Agency is ongoing, according to Karen Monaghan, a spokesperson for International Launch Services, the commercial arm of Khrunichev, the Russian firm that built the rocket.

"Until their report is complete, we will not have any details about what the cause is," Monaghan tells NPR.

Still the lesson may be as simple as this: Upside-down sensors can lead to upside-down rockets.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

NPR

As Publishing Industry Courts China, Authors Speak Out Against Censorship

Chinese writers and publishers are being celebrated this week at BookExpo America — the industry's largest trade event in North America. Free speech advocates are supporting silenced Chinese writers.
NPR

Cod Comeback: How The North Sea Fishery Bounced Back From The Brink

A decade ago, fishermen trying to catch North Sea cod were coming up empty. Now, thanks to strict fishing rules put in place to halt the decline, this fish tale looks headed for a happy ending.
WAMU 88.5

D.C. Immigrants Remain In Shadows While Reform Hits Roadblock

The administration's appeal to lift an injunction against his executive actions on immigration reform was denied. Consequently tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants in the metro D.C. area will continue to live in the shadows.
NPR

FCC Chairman Wants To Help Low Income Americans Afford Broadband

Tom Wheeler proposes to reboot the Lifeline phone-access program. The plan recognizes that everyone needs to study, apply for jobs and make social connections online.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.