Soyuz 2-1b
Launch vehicle Soyuz 2-1b
Launch site Plesetsk, Russia
Date/Time 2011-12-23 1208 UTC
Description Third stage failure (see note at the end)
Cause to be determined
Payload Meridian 5
Desired orbit geostationary transfer orbit

A Soyuz 2-1b failed to launch Russia's dual-use Meridian 5 communications satellite and crashed back to Earth. Fragments of the rocket and/or payload were found in the Novosibirsk region. There have been no reports of any injuries or serious damage. The failure occurred during the second half of the third stage's engine burn, which started 288 seconds after lift-off.

Aerospace Forces spokesman Col. Alexei Zolotukhin said that "an accident occurred at the 421st second of the Meridian satellite launch ... in the off-normal work of the propulsion unit of the third stage of the launch vehicle. The satellite failed to reach a low orbit," he said. "A state commission is investigating causes of the accident."

It was the sixth flight of a Soyuz 2-1b and its first failure. The main difference between the 2-1b and other Soyuz variants is the third stage, which uses an RD-0124 engine instead of the RD-0110 found on other variants' third stages (including the Soyuz 2-1a).

However, this latest failure is similar to that of a Soyuz-U which led to the loss of the Progress M-12M transport vessel in August 2011. Back then, the third stage engine (in that case an RD-0110) failed 325 seconds into flight.

[Note on the numbering of stages: Russian rocket manufacturers and news media count strap-on boosters attached to the core stage as a separate stage. According to that convention, the Soyuz consists of a first stage (strap-ons), second stage (core stage), third stage (Blok I) and fourth stage (upper stage, for instance Fregat). In Western terms, the rocket would consist of three stages, and the failure would have occurred in the second stage.]

Last updated: 23 December 2011

See also:

 

Launch Failures Chronology