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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.

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.