Human error is suspected according to Russian state news agency Interfax in the loss today of Russia’s Meteor-M weather satellite and 18 other secondary payloads which included Telesat’s first Low Earth Orbit (LEO) prototype satellite.
The launch took place Vostochny launch complex, Russia’s new eastern launch centre near the border with China. The Soyuz-2.1b rocket launched 12:41:46 a.m. EST and the mission appeared to be going well.
The Interfax website quotes an industry source as saying (translated) “According to preliminary data, there was an error in the flight task of the carrier rocket and the Fregat booster block, as a result of which the first impulse was issued in the wrong orientation, so the upper stage together with the satellite entered the atmosphere and fell into the Atlantic Ocean.”
Telesat confirmed the loss issuing a statement saying “Telesat learned this morning that the Soyuz 2 launch vehicle that was to place 19 spacecraft into orbit, including Telesat’s first Phase 1 LEO satellite, has failed.”
They did note in the release that the second prototype LEO satellite will be launching next month using a different launch provider, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO). In October, Dan Goldberg told SpaceQ in an interview that they had purposefully not launched the two satellites with the same provider just in case something might happen with the launch.
SpaceQ contacted Telesat to inquire if the lost satellite would be replaced, but has yet to hear back from Telesat on this question. However, according to the Space Intel Report website, Telesat’s insurance only becomes effective if both its prototype satellites fail to launch.