In November, Russia lost contact with a 6,062-pound, $45 million satellite. Turns out, that happened because the Meteor-M weather satellite was programmed with the wrong coordinates.
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On Wednesday, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin told the Rossiya 24 state TV channel that a human error was responsible for the screw-up, according to Reuters. While the Meteor-M launched last month from the Vostochny cosmodrome in the Far East, it was reportedly programmed with take-off coordinates for the Baikonur cosmodrome, which is located in southern Kazakhstan.
“The rocket was really programmed as if it was taking off from Baikonur,” Rogozin said. “They didn’t get the coordinates right.”
And the rocket had some precious cargo on board: “18 smaller satellites belonging to scientific, research and commercial companies from Russia, Norway, Sweden, the US, Japan, Canada and Germany,” Reuters reported.
Human programming errors and technical glitches aren’t uncommon in space flight. In fact, this isn’t Russia’s first mishap in recent history. In 2015, one of its rockets exploded minutes after launch, destroying a Mexican communication satellite. And last year, Japan’s $273 million Hitomi satellite was declared lost after it disintegrated and spun out of orbit. The cause is largely attributed to human error.
Russia’s costly failure comes shortly after its Roscosmos space program slashed its budget by 35 percent this year. What’s more, a 2015 audit into the Russian space agency found $1.8 billion in financial violations.