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    Re: 'Programming error' caused Russian rocket failure - Yahoo! News
    From: Frank Reed
    Date: 2010 Dec 7, 19:16 -0800

    Oddly enough, it seems that most rocket mishaps are easier to figure out than major aircraft accidents since the latter are so exceedingly rare on a percentage basis. With rockets, the cause tends to be something big and obvious even if people close to the program can't bring themselves to believe it's that obvious for months. But it still takes some careful analysis, since rockets tend to be very far away when they explode, and over water, and they tend to leave little recognizable debris. With this Proton rocket launch, sure, it could be a software problem. Or it could be a hardware problem. And I'm gonna stick my neck out and say it was either a software problem OR a hardware problem. While it's possible that it was such a glaring software error that it became obvious the instant they reviewed their notes, it could be that this is no more than a speculative guess from an engineer who happened to be quoted by some journalist. There are no names attached to this theory, and it sounds like rumor right now.

    The Proton rockets have been around since the late 1960s. It was a Proton that sent the first living animals, two turtles and some other small organisms, out around the Moon and back to the Earth in September, 1968. The spacecraft's re-entry failed, and it came down with bone-crushing 20g deceleration in the atmosphere. The turtles reportedly were not injured, but the intended human crew would probably not have survived. Three months later Jim Lovell was trying out the Apollo sextant on a much more ambitious manned lunar orbit flight. The tremendous success of that flight and the international media coverage of it essentially finished off the Soviet manned lunar program. The Proton is a fine old design, upgraded significantly in the past fifteen years, but it is still a rather "unlucky" beast.

    As for the Glonass sat nav system, this is an embarrassing setback but I would imagine only a delay of a few months in full global deployment. I noticed one article that quotes Russian President Vladimir Putin saying that he will decree that all new cars sold in Russia must have Glonass navigation systems starting in 2012. ...It's good to be the king.


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