[SatNews] There's a missing military satellite that apparently was put into the wrong orbit shortly after its launch — the Russian defence ministry has confirmed that it cannot track the craft, which was a dual-use vessel able to create a 3Dmap of the Earth and locate a target's precise position.
This incident comes just one month after President Dmitry Medvedev sacked two top space officials for a similar setback and has delivered another blow to Russia's space industry. The seriousness of the situation was underscored late Tuesday by reports that the defence ministry had set up an urgent joint task force with the Russia's space agency to look for the missing craft. The Geo-IK-2 satellite was created in Russia to help the military survey land and create a detailed three-dimensional map of the Earth and was designed to orbit 1,000 kilometres (600 miles) above ground. News reports from Russia indicate the satellite had been mistakenly placed in an an elliptical orbit, rather than the intended circular orbit, whose lowest point brought it to within 330 kilometres of Earth. "We have still not been able to establish contact with the craft, and it looks like most likely, it will be declared lost," a Russian space source told the Interfax-AVN news service.
"The spacecraft will not be able to perform its intended functions at these orbit characteristics," another space official told the news agency. Reports pointed the initial blame for the failure on the satellite's Briz-KM upper stage rocket. The satellite's launch had already been delayed from December because of technical malfunctions that were detected at its northern Russian launch site in Plesetsk.