Mexicans can only shake their heads in disbelief after watching their new $300 million satellite explode in a ball of fire over Siberia moments after being launched by the Russian space agency last weekend.
Mexico's new Centenario satellite was a project that was supposed to put the Aztec nation on the vanguard of space technology while improving telecom services for the next 15 years.
Sadly — and perhaps ironically— the failed space satellite, built by Boeing, was supposed to honor the 100th anniversary of the Mexican Revolution.
"There was no failure on the Centenario satellite. The failure was on the rocket," said Joanna E. Climer of Boeing. "Our normal due diligence practices leading to launch include evaluating any on-going in factory or on-orbit anomaly investigations for potential impacts to launch. Based on all available data, we concluded that there were no issues with Centenario and had given our consent to launch," she added. It took Boeing 35 months to build the Mexican satellite.
“The failure occurred approximately 490 seconds after liftoff, during the third stage of the mission,” said Karen Rose Monaghan of International Launching Services, a subsidiary of Russian state-owned aerospace company Khrunichev Research and Production Center. “There were no technical issues with the rocket prior to the launch.”
The Russians are investigating the cause of the explosion.
Centenario was a modern communications satellite that was supposed to provide 3.5G data, voice and Internet access to the country, according to a memorandum by Mexico’s Ministry of Transportations and Telecommunications. The full system was to consist of three satellites, two ground sites and associated network operations.
The rocket was launched in Kazakhstan but most of the debris fell over Siberia.
Mexicans are now questioning their government’s decision to launch the satellite with Russia’s space program, which has a recent streak of launching fiascos.
The Russian Federal Space Agency did not return Fusion's request for comment.
Mexican authorities say the licitation process was transparent and that there's always risk involved in satellite launches.
“If Mexico is incorporated into these high-level technologies and the satellite industry, we must learn to coexist with the risks,” said Gerardo Ruiz Esparza, head of Mexico’s Ministry of Transportations and Communications, during a press conference.
Ruiz Esparza said the Centenario was insured “100 percent” and assured Mexicans that their government will be able to recuperate the entire $300 million satellite cost, plus the $90 million launch fee.
Mexico plans to launch its next communications satellite, the Morelos 3, with American aerospace company Lockheed Martin at Florida’s Cape Canaveral.