The most powerful satellite to be built in Europe has been deliberately crashed after a technical failure meant it could not reach the orbit it was supposed to occupy.
Despite suggestions that it could be repurposed to supply broadband to Antarctic researchers, engineers at prime contractor EADS Astrium brought the 5,700kg Russian Express AM4 down on Sunday in a targeted re-entry.
The Express AM4 satellite has come back down to Earth after failing to reach the right orbit. Image credit: EADS Astrium
According to reports
, the communications satellite burned up and spread debris over the north Pacific.
The AM4 was launched in August last year on a Khrunichev Proton rocket, but was briefly lost. Once located, it was found to be in the wrong place, and without enough propellant to both get it into the right geostationary orbit and keep it working for long enough once it got there.
Russia declared the mission a total loss and reportedly collected a $270m (£170m) insurance pay-out.
The craft was supposed to provide governmental and commercial connectivity in Russia and surrounding countries over a 15-year period.
However, a company called Polar Broadband Ltd (PBL) suggested earlier this month that it would be possible to get the AM4 into an orbit from where it could have provided connectivity to the Antarctic for 14 to 16 hours a day, over 10 years.
That suggestion came after the targeted re-entry had already been planned, though, and the satellite's return to Earth went ahead.
The Russian Satellite Communications Company (RSCC) has now ordered a replacement from EADS Astrium, the Express AM4R, and this satellite is scheduled to go up at the end of 2013 or the start of 2014.