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Russian rocket fails to reach target orbit

MOSCOW — Russia’s space pride suffered another blow Tuesday when a booster rocket failed to place two communications satellites into target orbits.

Russia’s Roscosmos space agency said the Proton-M rocket was launched just before midnight Monday from the Russian-leased Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. The booster’s first stages worked fine, but the upper stage, intended to give the final push to the satellites, switched off prematurely.

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The agency said that the engine’s malfunction stranded the Russian Express MD-2 and Indonesia’s Telkom-3 satellites in a low orbit where they cannot be recovered.

‘‘The satellites can be considered lost,’’ a Roscosmos spokeswoman said on Rossiya television.

The failure comes a day after NASA managed to land a roving laboratory the size of a compact car on Mars after an 8-month, 352-million-mile journey.

A Russian robotic probe designed to study a moon of Mars got stranded in Earth orbit after its November launch and eventually crashed in January.

A few months before, a Soyuz booster rocket similar to those ferrying crews and cargo to the International Space Station failed, prompting officials to consider leaving the space outpost unmanned.

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