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

Reports: Fashion Icon Oscar De La Renta Dies After Long Cancer Fight

Fashion designer Oscar de La Renta, 82, died Monday after a decade-long battle with cancer, The New York Times and other media outlets report.
NPR

Sandwich Monday: The Primanti Bros. Pitts-burger

For this week's Sandwich Monday, we try a sandwich from the famous Primanti Bros. of Pittsburgh.
NPR

Close Iowa Senate Race Could Come Down To How Women Vote

Joni Ernst, who's an officer in the Iowa Army National Guard, presents herself as a mother, soldier, leader. But many women aren't responding to that.
NPR

Tunisia's Emerging Tech Sector Hampered By Old Policies

When Tunisia's young people protested in 2011, they had one key demand: jobs. Now, despite new political leadership, that demand remains unmet — even in tech, the sector that offers the most promise.

Leave a Comment

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