MOSCOW - Three Russian satellites crashed into the Pacific on Dec. 5 after the rocket carrying them failed to reach orbit following their launch, the defense ministry said.
The rocket carrying the Glonass navigation satellites, Russia's answer to the U.S. Global Positioning System (GPS), blasted off as planned from the Baikonur, Kazakhstan, cosmodrome at 1:25 p.m.
However, a second-stage booster rocket failed to carry its payload into orbit and is believed to have crashed into the Pacific of Hawaii, space industry sources told Russian news agencies.
"The ballistics experts have checked everything: the upper-stage rocket with the satellites is not on the main, intermediate nor emergency orbit," a source told the RIA Novosti news agency.
"Our calculations show that the upper-stage rocket with the satellites probably fell into the Pacific Ocean near Hawaii."
Interfax cited another source as saying that the satellites likely burned up in the atmosphere.
The Glonass system, developed by the Russian military in the 1980s, is being vaunted as Russia's answer to GPS and to Europe's fledgling Galileo system.
The three Glonass-M satellites, weighing 1.4 tons, were supposed to complete a constellation of satellites already put in place by Russia.
Russia's defense ministry confirmed the loss but said it would not affect the roll-out of the new positioning system.
"There are currently 26 satellites in the Glonass constellation, including two emergency satellites. This allows complete coverage of Russian Federation territory," the ministry said in a statement.
"The Russian space industry's capacity enables us to react rapidly to what's happened," it said, adding that the system would be fully in place next year.