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Cause of Russian launch failure identified

MOSCOW, Aug. 30 (UPI) -- Russian officials say a gas generator malfunction caused the crash of an unmanned supply spacecraft bound for the International Space Station.

The Progress 44 cargo spacecraft and its 2.6 tons of supplies for the space station crashed Aug. 24 after its historically reliable Soyuz rocket failed minutes after liftoff.

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The failure was caused by a malfunction in the gas generator in the Soyuz rocket's third stage, Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) spokesman Alexei Kuznetsov told ITAR-Tass Monday.

"Members of the emergency commission have determined the cause of the failure of the Soyuz carrier rocket's third stage engine. It is a malfunction in the engine's gas generator," he said.

A Russian space industry source said that "after 350 seconds of the flight a drop in pressure in the fuel tanks was registered, after which contact with the spacecraft was lost," SPACE.com reported.

Aircraft have been searching the crash area in the mountains of Siberia's Altai region for debris.

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