Employees of a Voronezh-based branch of the Khrunichev Space Research and Production Center are suspected of manufacturing a defective thruster for the Proton-M launch vehicle that crashed on May 16, 2015, Russian Investigative Committee spokesman Vladimir Markin said.
"An interagency commission concluded in its findings that the unplanned ending of the launch vehicle's flight was presumably due to a failure of the 3rd stage's thruster because of increased vibration caused by the misbalance of the turbo-pump unit's rotor, whose performance was affected by high temperatures and an imperfect balance system," Markin told Interfax on Aug. 11.
The thruster was manufactured in 2013 by employees of the Voronezh Mechanical Plant, i.e. a branch of the Khrunichev Space Research and Production Center, he said.
"The Russian Investigative Committee's department for the Voronezh region has opened a criminal case under Russian Criminal Code Article 216 [violation of safety regulations in performing work that caused substantial damage]," Markin said.
The spacecraft's loss caused the state material damage exceeding 57 million rubles, he said.
A Proton-M rocket coupled with a Briz-M upper stage and the MexSat-1 Mexican communication satellite onboard blasted off from the Baikonur space center on May 16. The engine of the rocket's third stage shut down 497 seconds into the flight.
"Employees from the Investigative Committee's local department are continuing to carry out the necessary procedures to determine all circumstances of the crime committed and collect evidence. Witnesses are being questioned, and a series of essential forensic studies has been ordered," Markin said.
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