Russia Loses Control of its Only Space Radio Telescope

Russian officials are working to re-establish communication to its only space radio telescope, which has “stopped responding” last week, the country’s space agency said Monday, according to

The incident is the latest setback for Russia’s debt-laden space industry, which in recent years has suffered the loss of spacecraft, satellites, and a failed manned launch.

The Russian space agency, Roscosmos, said a U.S. observatory detected signals from Russia’s gigantic Spektr-R, or RadioAstron, telescope, which stopped responding to commands from Earth last Thursday. Roscosmos said that meant the onboard systems were working independently.

The Spektr-R telescope was launched into orbit in 2011 to study black holes, neutron stars and Earth’s magnetic field, among other subjects. Complete with ground-based observatories and a 10-meter-long antenna, RadioAstron is one of the largest telescopes ever made.

A new attempt to regain control of the telescope will take place from 1600 GMT Monday, the space agency said in a statement. Previous attempts to get in touch with the telescope were unsuccessful.

Yuri Kovalev, head of the RadioAstron project, refused to say the country had lost the spacecraft for good.

“I cannot bury a satellite which is alive for sure,” Kovalev told AFP in written comments.

“It’s like asking for a comment about a sick person when doctors are fighting for his life,” said Kovalev, a physicist with the Lebedev Physical Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences in Moscow.

This year Russia is planning to launch another telescope, the Spektr-RG, whose task will be to put together a “complete map of the Universe,” the space agency has said.