Russia Postpones Satellite Launch

Russia's space agency said Monday it had postponed by one day the launch of a U.S communications satellite because of a problem in a booster rocket's control systems, news agencies reported.

A Russian Proton-M rocket was due to have blasted off Tuesday from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan carrying a satellite for U.S company SES Americom. The AMC-23 satellite will serve customers across the Pacific region, including Western North America, East Asia, the South Pacific, Alaska and Hawaii, and provide links to the world's premier regional satellite systems.

Russian Federal Space Agency spokesman Vyacheslav Davidenko said that the launch would take place Wednesday.

"The launch was postponed due to the problems in the systems of the Russian Briz-M booster, manufactured by the Khrunichev center," RIA-Novosti quoted Davidenko as saying.

Late last month, President Vladimir Putin fired the head of Khrunichev, Russia's top space construction company, after a series of embarrassing launch failures dented the program's prestige.

The loss of a high-profile European satellite was among a series of mishaps in October blamed on Khrunichev that jeopardized Russia's hopes of earning foreign cash from launching foreign commercial satellites.

The loss of the estimated $142 million CryoSat satellite because of the failure of a Russian Rokot booster was a major blow to the European Space Agency, which hoped to conduct a three-year mapping of polar ice caps and provide more reliable data on global warming.

Also that month, space experts failed to recover an experimental space vehicle after its return, engineers lost contact with an earlier launched Russian Earth-monitoring satellite and a new optical research satellite was lost due to a booster failure.