Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has formally reprimanded the chief of his country's national space agency and fired two other high-ranking space officials over the loss of three state-of-the-art navigation satellites in a botched rocket launch earlier this month.
The decision, announced by the Kremlin today (Dec. 29), comes after an investigation into the Dec. 5 launch failure of a Russian-built Proton rocket carrying three new Glonass-M navigation satellites.
The satellites never reached orbit. Instead, they plunged back to Earth and crashed in the Pacific Ocean north of Hawaii.
A follow-up investigation traced the failure to an embarrassing mistake: Technicians apparently loaded the Proton rocket's Block DM-3 upper stage with between 1,000 and 2,000 kilograms more fuel than planned, which sent the booster off course.
According to the Kremlin statement, Medvedev fired Viktor Remishevsky, deputy chief of Russia's Federal Space Agency, and Vyacheslav Filin, vice president and deputy chief of the rocket manufacturer RSC Energia, after receiving the report on the launch failure investigation.